Dorothy Crenshaw July 22, 2009 | 01:18:51

Cola Rivals Engage…With Each Other

It took me a while to get the Coke-Pepsi social media handshake thing.

I’m referring to that moment of Twitter diplomacy a couple of weeks ago.  The brand rivals agreed to make nice and follow one another, through a notably civil but tepid public exchange of  updates.  The detente was a response to a challenge by Australian marketing firm Amnesia Razorfish. It was a brilliant PR stunt on their part.

@CocaCola was the first to answer the call, tweeting a “gracious (but competitive) hello.”  Later @Pepsi responded with the slightly Zen-like musing, “Can followers and tweeps co-exist? We’re willing to find out.:)”

And that was that.  No swipes, insults, or even tortured cola puns.  No one was bubbling over, foaming at the mouth, or icy cold.  The exchange itself was sweet, cautious and a little, well, flat.
But, here’s the interesting part.  This “new” cola challenge was fueled by a cascade of retweets by Twitter users urging the brands to make nice.  And, the result was an outpouring of attention, including an AdAge profile, a Reuters piece, a hilarious Jimmy Fallon blog spoof, and countless other blog mentions.

Not exactly marketing history, and I doubt any soda was sold. But, it’s interesting from a brand engagement perspective.  And, it spurred me to look back at the heritage of the battle between the two soft drinks. Only two such iconic brands with such a legendary marketing rivalry could have the social world watching its Twitter moment. To look back over the history of the Coke-Pepsi marketing wars is to marvel at the moves and counter-moves that shaped each brand’s image over decades.  Things first heated up in the 1940s, when then-President Walter Mack made history by marketing Pepsi to African-Americans….this, while Jim Crow laws still stood.  It’s a remarkable, iconic rivalry that is precedent-setting to this day.

So, what’s next…McD’s and Burger King? Can world peace be far behind?

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