Pepsi brand strategy / positioning case study

Pepsi Brand Strategy Analysis

FMCG Non-alcoholic beverages – soft drinks

Owner of the brand:

Key competitors:

Brand essence

An iconic drink with a youthful spirit, bringing fun and refreshment.

Brand values

Fun, refreshment, youthfulness.

Brand character

Fun, modern, young, trendy, bold, humorous.

Dominating archetype

Pepsi was launched in 1893 by a pharmacist, Caleb Bradham, who believed the drink was a “healthy” cola, helping digestion[1]. Originally called “Brad’s Drink”, it was renamed as Pepsi-Cola in 1898, then as Pepsi in 1961[2]Until 2019, PepsiCo divided its products into three categories defined as: “Good for You” (the healthiest and the most nutritious of PepsiCo brands: Tropicana, Naked, Aquafina or Gatorade); “Fun for You” (products without clear health benefits, positioned as “making life more fun”, e.g., Lay’s and Doritos); and “Better for You” (an in-between category—snacks and soft drinks with higher nutritional values or less fat and sugar, such as Lay’s Baked). Pepsi belonged to the “Fun for You” group, while its diet variant, Pepsi Zero Sugar, fitted into the “Better for You” category.


Although both Coca-Cola and Pepsi position themselves in a similar way at the functional level – emphasizing taste and refreshment in communication, their brand strategies differ on the emotional level. While for Coca-Cola happiness and optimism are the core values, for Pepsi the core value is fun; Coca-Cola’s focus is on building a timeless brand image whilst Pepsi is more concerned with the “here and now” and Coca-Cola is an inclusive brand for everybody where Pepsi is more individualistic. Brad Jakeman, former President, Global Enjoyment and Chief Creative Officer at Pepsi explained the difference between the two brands to Advertising Age: “Coke represents happiness and moments of joy, while it protects culture and maintains the status quo. Pepsi, on the other hand, creates culture and embraces individuality. For Pepsi loyalists, leading an exciting life is much more important than leading a happy one.[3]


Pepsi for years has been focusing on a younger audience and to stay relevant to them, it attempts to always keep up with the today’s world, which means constant reinvention. From hiring A-list celebrities (Beyonce, Pharrell Williams, Coldplay just to name a few) and using young people’s language (e.g., #SayItWithPepsi emoji packaging) as well as up-to-date visuals, to focusing on young-skewing social media. When compared to Coca-Cola’s tone of voice, Pepsi seems to be bolder and more humorous. Interestingly, however, in recent years, Pepsi has started experimenting with communication, which, rather than being focused on strengthening the contemporary character of the brand, is more nostalgic, attempting to convey the message that Pepsi is a drink for all generations, not just the young. Advertising Age commented: “Is Pepsi, long associated with the here and now and hottest stars, leaning a bit too much into its past?[4]



In 2019, Pepsi announced the global launch of its new communication platform, “For the love of it”. Although “For the love of it” is in line with the overall Pepsi brand strategy, it seems to place a stronger emphasis on product communication than building an emotional image of the brand[5]. Roberto Rios, CMO, Global Beverages at PepsiCo said: “We are confidently celebrating who we are – an iconic brand rooted in entertainment with a refreshing and delicious beverage people around the world love – as well as who our fellow cola lovers are. ‘For the love of it’ is our rallying cry, proudly saying to go all in for the things you love – from passions and interests like football and music to unabashedly enjoying one of life’s favorite treats – Pepsi.[6] Interestingly, “For the love of it” was never launched in the United States. Instead, in 2020, the brand announced a new communication platform for the American market, “That’s what I like” which refers to two things – Pepsi drinkers’ preference of the Pepsi product and their unapologetic approach to life. Todd Kaplan, VP of Marketing at Pepsi commented: “The new tagline is an ode to our most loyal Pepsi drinkers, who like what they like and live their lives out loud, without worrying what others think.[7]


Pepsi, during the most intense times of the so-called ‘cola wars’, was a challenger brand based on the Outlaw archetype, always comparing itself to Coca-ColaIn recent years, however, Pepsi almost entirely abandoned this approach (with the exception of a few markets) and is now a Jester brand representing fun.


Dominant colour: blue.

Most important campaigns

1. “Glow Up” (2020, US)

2. “‘For The Love Of It’ – Lipsmakin” (2019)

3. “Pepsi Super Bowl Commercial 2018” (2018)

4. “Pepsi Emojis Here Now!” (2016)

5. Pepsi Max “Uncle Drew | Chapter 1” (2012)


Official brand statement:

Pepsi has been bringing fun and refreshment to consumers for over 100 years.[8]

Interesting facts:

In the US, PepisCo rebranded Pepsi Max to Pepsi Zero Sugar as, according to the company’s research, many consumers didn’t know it was a sugar-free variant.[9]



1. Adweek on the “That’s what I like” communication platform
I. Zelaya, “Pepsi Kicks Off 2020 With A New U.S. Tagline”, Adweek, Jan 2020,

2. Campaign on the “For the love of it” communication platform
S. Gwynn, “Pepsi Unveils First New Global Brand Platform In Seven Years”, Campaign, Jan 2019,

3. Advertising Age on how Pepsi wants to win “the cola wars”
E. J. Schultz, “The Cola Wars Are Back: Pepsi Pledges To Go ‘Toe-To-Toe’ With Coke”, Ad Age, Apr 2018,

  1. “History Of The Birthplace”, The Pepsi Store,
  3. N. Zmuda, “Pepsi Tackles Identity Crisis”, Ad Age, May 2012,­tackles­identity-crisis/234586/
  4. E. J. Schultz, “The Cola Wars Are Back: Pepsi Pledges To Go ‘Toe-To-Toe’ With Coke”, Ad Age, Apr 2018,
  5. M. Fleming, “Pepsi Celebrates ‘Pop And Fizz’ Of Cola As It Shifts Brand Positioning”, Marketing Week, Jan 2019,
  6. S. Gwynn, “Pepsi Unveils First New Global Brand Platform In Seven Years”, Campaign, Jan 2019,
  7. I. Zelaya, “Pepsi Kicks Off 2020 With A New U.S. Tagline”, Adweek, Jan 2020,

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