Tuesday, 12 February 2013

SodaStream vs. Coke & Pepsi

SodaStream’s direct stab at Coke and Pepsi with its original Super Bowl ad saw them having to replace it with a toned down version, which in turn generated more awareness for the brand. The replacement ad featured generic soda brands upon request from broadcaster CBS, which wasn’t keen on causing a stir among some of its largest supporters, namely Coke and Pepsi.

The ad had a strong single minded proposition: when customers make their own soda with a SodaStream, they don’t waste plastic bottles. The insight of billions of bottles ending up in landfills every month provided the basis for a compelling brand story.

Leveraging the David vs. Goliath narrative, SodaStream is a classic “challenger” brand. According to Adam Morgan, author of “Eating The Big Fish” and expert in the field: “The narrative is that through being fleeter of foot, more innovative and creative, possibly by being an out-and-out maverick, a small business can take share from a larger one.”

In the Master of Marketing consumer behaviour lectures, we explored different brand archetypes, including “The Irreverent Maverick”, which is often associated with challenger brands. It defies social conventions and challenges “normal” behaviour with wit, humour and even shock tactics.

In the end, the controversy around the Super Bowl ads created a huge awareness for the unaired ad with over 4.5 million views on YouTube, while the official Super Bowl ad had just about 200 thousand views. With large business proving they can also benefit from challenger thinking such as Unilever’s Dove “Campaign for real beauty”, I’m keen to see how Coke and Pepsi will react.

What lessons can large corporations learn from challenger strategies?

Adriana Heinzen
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

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