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Social Media Taste Test: Coke Vs. Pepsi

February 22, 2010
cokevspepsi.jpgimage adapted from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jackol/

There’s long been a war in the cola arena between Coca-Cola and Pepsi and the battle to win the heartiest social fan base will be the next interesting milestone to unfold between the two.

A UK blog reported that Coke is devoting more to their social marketing efforts this year. Specifically it’s focusing on community platforms such as Facebook and YouTube. And Pepsi said no to Super Bowl ads this year in favor of a $20 million social media budget.

Pepsi’s money is going towards a grassroots program they’re calling Pepsi Refresh. It not only hopes to build a community online, the company plans to sponsor thousands of local efforts. Pepsi has six professional ambassadors that have already accomplished something significant in their category (health, arts & culture, food & shelter, the planet, neighborhoods, education). They write posts for the site to inspire readers to submit ideas and discuss. Pepsi’s capping the idea submissions at 1000 each month — maybe to encourage fair voting, maybe to help them manage the submissions?

Though this isn’t PepsiCo’s first attempt at social. They launched the DEWmocracy campaign in 2007 as a crowdsourcing effort to develop a new product. Now they’re doing it again using 12seconds.tv, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

Nike is moving more towards social media as well. To play off the current “Deny Destiny” TV spot,  Organic filmed exclusive interviews with players and redesigned the Canadian site to include Facebook, Twitter and YouTube components. Nike also enlisted Steve “Dangle” Glynn, a popular hockey blogger and YouTube personality, to blog and tweet about the World Juniors.

For the Olympics, NikeTraining rolled-out the Nike TwitterStream for each athlete for each event. On each athlete page — while they compete — there’s relevant tweets for fans to follow while they watch the games. You can participate by using designated hashtags.

Creative Director Elliott Smith says their redesigned Canadian site “is meant to be just one part of visitors’ online experience, rather than the hub. Comments for the videos are duplicated on Facebook, because that’s where the target market ‘lives and breathes every day,'”

Colleague Karri Ojanen doesn’t think brands should rely singly on social media to connect with their customers. “The clients and agencies who can think of their decisions in terms of not just the individual tools, but the whole toolkit, and put it together with their own unique situation are the ones who will win. Coke’s Prinz Pinakatt and Unilever’s Cheryl Calverley seem to both understand that. They’re not completely doing away with sites, but recognize the need to emphasize connections instead of a fairly static campaign property.”

Sandy Marsh struggles “with there being any division anymore. The whole of the internet is social. What would be revolutionary is a brand that obliterates the divide rather than chooses one side or the other. I’m not saying I know quite how that can be done, but…”

Craig Ritchie agrees that brands will “benefit from moving away from the old model of buying traffic for short-term experiences,” but thinks these examples still seem “like channel-based thinking.” Brands that continue to adapt to consumer behavior rather than trying to interrupt it with messaging will be the ones to attract and sustain the fans. Starbucks, LEGO, Toyota and Dell (just to name a few) are already looking at the digital experience holistically. And these — so far — are the strongest in social media.

So who will win the social cola war? It might not be a clear cut champion. One might reign on Facebook, while the other might top Twitter. But really, it’s how they use those tools and what (besides fans) that they hope to gain. As Forrester puts it, Pepsi “is putting Social Media to work for a higher goal–making the world a better place and associating the brand with that vision.” They are taking social media seriously and thinking about the bigger picture.

Do you think companies are smart to devote more dollars to social?

NOTE: This post originally appeared on Threeminds.
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