Friday, September 16, 2016

The Pepsi Problem: What Political Candidates Can Learn From A Can of Coca-Cola

There can only be one.
There's a marketing concept I'm totally making up right now I call "The Pepsi Problem" or "The Pepsi Mistake" depending on how you want to view it. It goes like this:

Coca-Cola is the #1 brand on the planet. There is almost no human being that does not recognize this symbol. The only 'meme' to be more recognizable is Godzilla.

Coke's 'proposition' to consumers is simple, and it delivers on that promise in a way no other brand has.

Here's is Coke's promise: "You are equal."

Here's how they deliver on that promise: NO MATTER WHERE YOU GO ON THE PLANET, a can of Coca-Cola does not differ in price for the poorest or richest, nor does the product. Rich people cannot buy a different Coca-Cola. Poor people are not sold a lesser-quality product in the same can. It is the most democratically accessible product in the history of humankind.

Always second best.
The Pepsi Challenge

In the late 80's/early 90's, the PEPSI company decided to convert soda drinkers based on the taste of their product and initiated a campaign urging consumers to 'take the challenge!'

In doing so, Pepsi (unknowingly?) brought Coca-Cola into its universe - its "thought space" - and once there, Coca-Cola was constantly on the minds of PEPSI drinkers.

Coca-Cola, by contrast, made no comparable mistake: IN THE UNIVERSE OF COCA-COLA, PEPSI DOES NOT EXIST!

There are no other soft drinks in the Coca-Cola universe. Even soda brands owned by the CC company are advertised as being in the "Coca-Cola Family" and NONE of them are advertised alongside/inside the Coca-Cola logo itself.

Be Coca-Cola and Deliver on Democratic Accessibility

Politicians should stop talking about each other - in HRC's case her campaign needs to stop referencing Trump in any way, shape, or form. Trump (PEPSI) cannot exist in their world. Let HIM propose a Pepsi Challenge and let his constituents forever struggle with two personalities in their heads while the HRC camp MUST deliver on the proposition of democratic access: the nation's destitute need to be able to access the same candidate for their proverbial dollar as a billionaire.

Here are some ideas of pragmatic implementation of this philosophy:

  • End 'closed-door' meetings as a matter of policy
  • 'Radical Openeness' - web streams of meetings with donors, constituents, etc to deliver the message the candidate does not offer a "different can of Coke" to anyone under any circumstances.
  • Accountability: Coca-Cola holds its manufacturers to high standards and is able to do so because it maintains LEVERAGE over its production. The company protects its core principles expressed in the brands proposition (democratic access.) Fire anyone that sells access to your office / campaign. 
  • Wipe clean the "Favor Slate" - publicly. All promises made internally prior to this brand reboot must be burned.
  • Cease references to any other candidates and do not respond to their provocations. 20 Questions for Donald Trump on Twitter was your Pepsi Challenge. Ooops.
  • Ensure surrogate brands (VP, public-facing staff, etc) know that Coca-Cola is THE ONLY ONE, but keep the brand mark barely visible. Make sure they deliver on YOUR promise and not theirs. If they veer off the core philosophy and don't deliver, fire/replace them because everything you've built depends on it.
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