Pepsi Challenge

cola wars by Mark Duffin

dispepsi

The Pepsi Challenge is an ongoing marketing promotion run by PepsiCo since 1975. It is also the name of a cross country ski race at Giant’s Ridge Ski Area in Biwabik, Minnesota, an event sponsored by Pepsi. The challenge originally took the form of a single blind taste test. At malls, shopping centers, and other public locations, a Pepsi representative set up a table with two white cups: one containing Pepsi and one with Coca-Cola. Shoppers were encouraged to taste both colas, and then select which drink they prefer. The results of the test leaned toward a consensus that Pepsi was preferred by more Americans.

The Pepsi Challenge taste test ad campaign is frequently credited for Coca-Cola’s decision to introduce New Coke in 1985. In his book ‘Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking’ (2005), author Malcolm Gladwell presents evidence that suggests Pepsi’s success over Coca-Cola is a result of the flawed nature of the ‘sip test’ method. His research shows that tasters will generally prefer the sweeter of two beverages based on a single sip, even if they prefer a less sweet beverage over the course of an entire can. Additionally, many participants recalled a difference in temperature between the two drinks. According to these claims, Pepsi was served chilled, while Coca-Cola was served at room temperature, thus making the Pepsi more appealing.

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