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The Pepsi Challenge

Updated: Dec 19, 2021

The Pepsi Challenge was a famous ongoing marketing promotion run by PepsiCo that started in 1975. The challenge was launched as part of the ongoing "Cola Wars" between Pepsi and The Coca-Cola Company.

The challenge originally took the form of a single blind taste test. At malls, shopping centers, and other public locations, a Pepsi representative sets up a table with two white cups: one containing Pepsi and one with Coca-Cola. Shoppers are encouraged to taste both colas, and then select which drink they prefer. Then the representative reveals the two bottles so the taster can see whether they preferred Coke or Pepsi.

When the preference in blind tests is compared to tests wherein cups are labeled with arbitrary labels (e.g., S or L) or brand names, the ratings of preference change. Scientific findings do support a perceptible difference between Coca-Cola and Pepsi, but not between Pepsi and RC Cola. The results of the test leaned toward an overall consensus that Pepsi was preferred by more Americans.

In 1981, Pepsi ran a "Pepsi Challenge Payoff" contest that would hand out a large prize to anyone who could gather Pepsi bottle caps that spelled out the words "Pepsi Challenge". Here is an explanation history of The Pepsi Challenge:

In his book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking (2005), author Malcolm Gladwell presents evidence that suggests Pepsi's success over Coca-Cola in the "Pepsi Challenge" is a result of the flawed nature of the "sip test" method. His research shows that tasters will generally prefer the sweeter of two beverages based on a single sip, even if they prefer a less sweet beverage over the course of an entire can.

In his book, Bad Habits, humorist Dave Barry describes the Pepsi challenge as, "Pepsi’s ongoing misguided attempt to convince the general public that Coke and Pepsi are not the same thing, which of course they are." A 1983 Commercial:

A 1983 Pepsi commercial in Austrailia featuing the Pepsi Challenge taste test:

In 2015, Pepsi relaunched the Pepsi Challenge on social media. As part of this year long promotion, Pepsi signed various celebrity ambassadors to advertise their product on their social media accounts under the hashtag #PepsiChallenge.

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