Pepsi Challenges Coca-Cola’s Dominance as the Preferred Rum Mixer

July 29, 2023
Pepsi Challenges Coca-Cola’s Dominance as the Preferred Rum Mixer
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Pepsi continues to invest in a #BetterwithPepsi brand platform that looks to establish a position as the superior soft drink pairing with other food and beverages. While past iterations have focused on dining staples like burgers, pizza, and most recently, hot dogs, the marketer is targeting the alcohol market and on-premise drinking occasions with its latest take on the campaign.

The goal is to unseat Coke as the mixer of choice for rum, a difficult task given how culturally enshrined rum and Coke is as an order for this particular highball cocktail, also referred to as a Cuba libre. To gin up more consumer interest in the idea, Pepsi is working with Drizly on special delivery offers when users apply a #BetterWithPepsi code at checkout.

Stretching back to the original Pepsi Challenge in the ’70s, Pepsi has used taste tests and consumer research to get a leg up on its larger competitor. The Pepsi and rum initiative is no different. Working with an independent sensory and product evaluation firm, the brand surveyed 226 consumers aged 21-54 in the Chicago, Phoenix and Tampa markets in June 2022 and found more than half thought Pepsi was better with rum than Coke.

Pepsi is also deploying some less statistically minded tactics to shore up the rum and cola association. New ads zoom in on crinkled napkins and labels printed with Captain Morgan and Bacardi logos to identify Pepsi globes buried in the details. Tag lines for the campaign, which appears in print and OOH placements in Atlanta, Los Angeles, Miami and New Orleans and New York City, encourage consumers to question whether they’re making the right choice with their drink orders. “Not behind the bar? Always in the picture,” one reads, seemingly acknowledging that Coke is more commonly stocked at watering holes and other venues.

The hidden logo approach has won Pepsi accolades before. #BetterwithPepsi launched in 2021 with a play around burgers that addressed how Coke has more substantial partnerships with the largest U.S. fast food chains. Creative showed crumpled paper bags from those chains that also carried hidden Pepsi globes.

Pepsi’s National Rum Month promotion dovetails into a wide-ranging overhaul that will see the company switch up its visual assets for the first time in 14 years. The brand’s more aggressive marketing strategy appears to be winning some consumer favor. Pepsi has seen its brand value increase 17% year-over-year to $18.8 billion, according to Kantar’s latest BrandZ rankings, which placed the PepsiCo unit back in the global top 100. BrandZ attributed Pepsi’s gains to “great advertising.”