Pepsi Goes Red In China
By Tom Ryan
Pepsi recently came out with the red can in China in honor of the upcoming 2008 Beijing Olympics, but some say it too eerily resembles Coca-Cola’s own Olympics-themed cans.
The move, reported in the Wall Street Journal, tears apart traditional distinctions that delineated the rival colas by color: red for Coca-Cola and blue for Pepsi.
Pepsi officials said they made the move to support China’s national sports team, coordinating the design of Pepsi’s can with the color of China’s national flag. Pepsi is a sponsor of Team China, the national team that represents China in various international sporting events, including the Asian Games.
Besides the color, the new Pepsi can – like Coca-Cola’s – features Olympic athletes, though they are different from the ones on the Coke can because Coca-Cola has exclusive contracts with some athletes, in addition to being an official sponsor of the Beijing 2008 Olympics.
Pepsi’s can is a darker red than Coke’s, and its red, white and blue globe logo is displayed prominently. According to a Pepsi spokesperson, this “makes the brand-identification crystal clear.” Coke has its brand name in all sizes printed from almost every angle on its can. It also has only one large photo per can of a sponsored Olympic athlete while Pepsi has numerous smaller ones.
The red can is just a temporary promotion that will last through the end of the year. In China, Coke has a 51 percent market share in overall carbonated soft drink sales, led by Coca-Cola and Sprite against Pepsi’s 30 percent; according to Beverage Digest.
Leo Tsoi, marketing director for Pepsi in China, told the Journal that the company’s decision to “go red” had nothing to do with Coke. Instead, he said, it was in response to positive feedback the company got from a survey of Pepsi drinkers, who he says supported the campaign as a “bold move” and appreciated Pepsi’s support of their national team.
“We are going red for Team China,” Mr. Tsoi said. “We wouldn’t be doing a program that is simulating the competitor.”
Tom Pirko, president of BevMark LLC, a beverage-industry consultant, said that by adopting red, Pepsi is muddying the waters for Coke. “You don’t ever want to allow Coke in China to be like Coke in the U.S., where it’s so iconic,” he said.
Mr. Pirko also said it’s a good time to support Team China. He told the Journal, “If you’re going to a party you wear the right clothes, and the right clothes in China are red.”
Kelly Brooks, a spokesman for Coca-Cola, didn’t comment on whether Coke would ask Pepsi to desist from marketing its cola in a red can or seek other action against the company. But he did seem bemused with Pepsi’s move, “Red? Great idea. Why didn’t we think of that?”
Discussion Question: What do you think of Pepsi using a similar red color can as Coca-Cola’s in China as part of a one-time Olympics promotion?
- Pepsi Steps Into Coke Realm: Red, China – The Wall Street Journal (sub. required)
- Pepsi’s RED can – Team China Commercial – You Tube
- Pepsi’s China Website – pepsi.com.cn/