Pepsi gained a tremendous amount of market share in the 1980s. This was in part due to Coca-Cola’s failed launch of New Coke, in part because of an aggressive advertising campaign, and in part because of their Pepsi Challenge.
The Pepsi Challenge was simple. The company set up stands in public places and invited passers-by to take a blind taste test. The participant was asked their favorite cola (“Coke” being the routine answer) and then given a taste of two different colas, each from a separate, unlabeled glass. Then he was asked which he preferred. He chose Pepsi. People almost always choose Pepsi in blind taste tests. That’s because Pepsi is sweeter than Coke, which people prefer. These taste tests were heavily integrated into Pepsi’s marketing, which steadily eroded Coke’s marketing share.
Coca-Cola began to panic. They did the only thing that they could think of, which was to modify the Coke recipe to make it sweeter. With a massive marketing campaign, this was released as New Coke. It was a tremendous failure. People hated it. It was the worst product launch in history.
As Malcom Gladwell explained in “Blink,” Coke’s mistake was in letting Pepsi define the terms of engagement. What the company didn’t understand is that people don’t prefer Pepsi. They prefer a single sip of Pepsi. If people are sent home with a six pack of each, they’ll get through one Pepsi and drink all of the Coca-Cola. The sweetness of Pepsi is preferable in small doses, but twelve ounces of it is not to most people’s liking.
If New Coke was the biggest disaster in marketing history, Coca-Cola Classic was the biggest turnaround success. The original formula was promptly brought back, renamed with the “classic” moniker, and promoted by tapping into nostalgia. The cola wars went on, with Coca-Cola having learned a valuable lesson in product testing.
Things went far worse for Pepsi in Peru. Like many companies looking to expand their market, the cola maker had gone to developing nations to attempt to define themselves as the standard beverage there. They set up the Pepsi Challenge (“El Reto Pepsi”) in Peru, setting up stands throughout Lima to the tune of millions of dollars. As with the U.S. Pepsi Challenge, Peruvians were asked what their favorite cola was, then given the blind taste test, and then told that, in fact, Pepsi was their favorite, not Coca-Cola.
Peruvians did not take kindly to being told they didn’t have the good sense to know their own preferences. In fact, those who took the Pepsi Challenge were pretty damned upset about it. Pepsi’s market share crumbled while the native drink, Inca Kola, took advantage of people’s annoyance to expand their market share. Pepsi wound up with a 3% market share.
In 2004, Democrat Al Weed found himself at the end of a long, uphill race against incumbent Republican Virgil Goode here in Virginia’s Fifth Congressional District. In a last-ditch media effort, the Weed campaign put together an aggressive television advertisement attacking Rep. Goode (1MB WMV).
The thirty second spot lampooned Goode, portraying him as a South Park-style cutout figure, hands waving in the air and shoulders animated into a clueless shrug as a narrator repeatedly described him as “out of touch.” Ironically cheerful music played in the background while on-screen actions were punctuated with sound effects, including a cash register ka-ching as Goode appeared.
I lived in the New River Valley for the bulk of the race, working on my political science degree. The advertisement was the topic of some discussion among fellow political science students at Virginia Tech. While Republicans predictably hated the ad, many Democrats also hated it. They felt that the ad was so disrespectful in its treatment of Rep. Goode that it insulted their intelligence. Forced to choose between Al Weed and their conscience, they chose the latter.
Perhaps the ad had something to do with other voters making the same decision; Goode won with 63% of the vote.
South Dakota governor Mike Rounds signed HB 1215 into law back in March. The new law makes abortion a felony, beginning at fertilization (not conception), with an exception only to save the life of a pregnant woman. This is in blatant and intentional violation of the constitutional which, as decided in Roe v. Wade, protects the right to abortion. Proponents of the bill say that the goal wasn’t actually to put such a ban in place but, rather, for somebody to sue over it, a judge to grant an injunction, and for the case to be appealed up to the Supreme Court where, they hope, Roe would be overturned. What proponents didn’t count on was the voters.
Rather than a lawsuit, citizens chose to make use of South Dakota’s referendum process. They gathered enough signatures to prevent the law from going into effect on July 1, and the law will be put before the voters come the general election in November. If they approve it, it will go into effect. If they don’t, that’s the end of it.
This was not the plan. The South Dakota legislature never wanted to run a ground war. They didn’t even want the law. They just wanted to instigate a lawsuit. The result is very, very bad for those who are pro-birth. Planned Parenthood is thrilled. The National Right to Life Committee is distraught.
Only a tiny minority of the nation actually supports such a draconian ban. While about half of the nation considers themselves “pro-life,” it’s a black-and-white distinction that is a vast oversimplification of their actual position. People’s beliefs about abortion are best placed along a continuum, ranking from 0 to 270 days. Some people believe that abortion should be legal up to one month, or 30 days. Others believe it should be at three months, or 120 days. And so on. I have never heard of anybody who believes it should be at 270 days, or even over 180 days, other than to save the life of the mother. And there is a tiny minority in this nation who believes that abortion should always be illegal.
There is no line separating pro-life individuals from pro-choice people. An opponent of abortion after the first trimester could reasonably call themselves pro-choice, or they could equally reasonably label themselves pro-life. The mistake made by many abortion opponents is assuming that those who call themselves pro-life oppose all abortion all the time. That’s wrong.
Groups working to ensure that HB 1215 is upheld in November have learned that the supposed pro-life majority does not support such a ban. So, in an effort to persuade people, these groups are attempting to convince people that they’re wrong. (“Reversing Roe,” Cynthia Gorey. June 26 2006 New Yorker.)
Many pro-lifers oppose abortion except in cases of rape and incest, with South Dakotan Republicans citing that as why they intend to vote to repeal HB 1215. So supporters of the law are patiently explaining to voters that, in order to be philosophically consistent, it is unreasonable to believe that a fetus has a right to life unless it was conceived in violence. After all, that’s hardly the fetus’ fault. One cannot call oneself pro-life while supporting abortion in cases of rape and incest.
Pro-life voters are not finding this appeal particularly convincing. In fact, being told that they’re wrong is driving them out of the pro-life camp and even the Republican camp. The walls of the tent having being demarcated, these ostensible pro-life voters are finding themselves standing outside in the rain and, worse still, being told they don’t have the good sense to know their own belief structure.
HB 1215’s odds aren’t good.