When you’re in a head-to-head war against another titan of the industry, you have to have some great marketing ideas at your disposal. In the Cola Wars, Coca-Cola and Pepsi have been going head-on for over a century for brand superiority. The latter drink has had some terrific campaigns that were considered among the best in marketing history, with these five being Pepsi’s most iconic.
There are certain ad campaigns that are remembered for a couple of years after their release, then there are those that are remembered for decades to come. One of the campaigns that falls into the latter category is the one where supermodel Cindy Crawford appeared for Pepsi. The company was in the process of a can and bottle redesign and needed a good marketing campaign to make people aware.
With that, Lee Garfinkel pitched the idea of having the model drink Pepsi, and he originally had Macaulay Culkin in mind as one of the children fawning over her a la “The Little Rascals”. The immediate success of the campaign had Pepsi throwing money hand over fist at Crawford to get her into more ads as Pespi’s popularity grew throughout the 1990s.
The Super Bowl Halftime Show
No particular portion of a television broadcast in the United States gets more eyeballs on it each year than the Super Bowl halftime show. While a majority of the country watches the game for various reasons, it’s the halftime show that gets the most attention from non-sports fans. During the early years of the Super Bowl, the halftime show was an afterthought, but that would change when Coca-Cola became the first-ever halftime show sponsor in 1989.
After a few years of no sponsorships, the Super Bowl halftime show returned to being a so-so affair, but it became must-see television when Pepsi became the sponsor for the first time in 2007. The company was able to get Prince to play the halftime show in Miami during a downpour in what many consider the greatest performance in the big game’s history (musically, at least). Pepsi then returned as a sponsor, landing Beyonce in the first year of its second stint.
You Got the Right One, Baby
As you may have been able to guess, Pepsi has leaned more toward musicians throughout the company’s history, making Crawford one of those rare exceptions. To kick off the 1990s, the legendary Ray Charles appeared in an advertising campaign for Pepsi that lasted for three years, promoting the diet version of the drink. A new jingle was created in conjunction titled “You Got the Right One, baby, Uh Huh.”
The song was written by Maryland singer Arthur Takeall who performed it on a local radio station. He was able to copyright the song, too, meaning that Pepsi’s advertising campaign netted him a pretty penny. It was the slogan that Pepsi needed to stay in the mind of Americans even if they weren’t witnessing an ad at that time.
Anyone that was around in 1996 knows how much Pepsi we were all drinking (or at least buying) because of the Pepsi Stuff program that was released that year. Each can, bottle, and case of Pepsi products came with a certain amount of points that could then be sent to the company in exchange for merchandise. While most of the affordable items were Pepsi hats and t-shirts, there were some big ticket items, too.
Some of these more expensive items included a leather jacket and a mountain bike, but there was one prize that Pepsi never thought would be redeemed: a Harrier jet for 7 million points. A man named John Leonard was able to get all of those points, however, saying that it was cheaper to go through the points system than to buy a jet. He sued Pepsi for false advertising, but the case was dismissed and he didn’t get his Harrier.
With every passing generation, Pepsi attempts to lay claim to being the official soft drink of that generation. This started in the mid-1960s with “The Pepsi Generation”, helping to boost sales of the drinks. The generational campaigns didn’t really take off in the 1970s, but in the 1980s returned in a big way thanks to the help of Michael Jackson. Hot off the heels of his “Thriller” album, Jackson appeared in a Pepsi advertising campaign that was insanely popular.
Pepsi was dubbed “The Choice of a New Generation,” and the company had some of the most memorable ads of the decade. This continued into the 1990s thanks to Pepsi’s “Generation Next” campaign that featured the likes of Britney Spears and The Spice Girls.