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The Cola Wars Timeline: What Went Down


The incredible Cola Wars is stuff legends are made of. For more than a century, The Coca Cola Company and PepsiCo have been feuding through television advertisements and marketing campaigns to outdo the other. The bouts of intense competition between the two soda brands in the peak of the era went so far as to feature taste tests to sway the consumers.

The complex relationship Coca-Cola Company and PepsiCo began in the 1980s, when Pepsi began running television commercials around the country, in what they called the Pepsi Challenge.  At malls, shopping centers, and other public locations a Pepsi representative set up table with two white cups: one marked M and one marked Q. Shoppers were encouraged to taste both drinks, and select the one they prefer. The general consensus leaned towards the cup marked M, and M would be revealed as Pepsi. Coke performed its own tests and discovered the same thing. Since Pepsi was sweeter than Coke, the devastated executives at the Coca-Cola Company decided to change its formula. This was New Coke; and it horribly backfired.

The Cola Wars Timeline

What makes the Cola Wars so interesting is that their products are identical. They’re brown, sugary, and carbonated beverages. They don’t taste that different. So why jump through the hoops to generate brand loyalty?

The Cola Wars timeline will give you a look at some of the biggest spats between the twin American icons.


When Crystal Pepsi was released, Coca-Cola released a competitor called Tab Clear as an intentionally bad product to destroy the Crystal Pepsi brand. The ‘kamikaze’ strategy, where Coca-Cola would create a terrible tasting beverage to create consumer confusion, was successful and both the products were dead 6 months later.


In 2006, three agents tried to sell Coca-Cola’s secret ingredient to Pepsi. Undercover FBI officers posted as Pepsi executives and pretended to broker the deal which resulted in the arrest of the three agents.


When PepsiCo discovered that Mexican shamans used Coca-Cola in their religious rituals to heal worshippers, they offered commissions for using Pepsi instead. Coca-Cola found out and they began paying; and thus the Mexican shamans became a battleground for Cola Wars between Pepsi and Coke.

Soon rival religious group were formed based on which soft drink they use.


Rum and Coke or Rum and Pepsi? Or Jack and Pepsi? A flavor scientist could tell you which one, and why. Or, perhaps, a songwriter?

In the 1940s, aspiring actor and songwriter Morey Amsterdam wrote a song called “Rum and Coca-Cola.” Before its release in the USA, Pepsi offered to rename the song to “Rum and Pepsi-Cola”, but was outbid.

By the end of the day, Amsterdam was a wealthy man, and the song became the second-biggest record of the 1940s (after ‘White Christmas’).


In the summer of 1985, the two soda brands reached peaked rivalry by taking their marketing spat into outer space. When Pepsi got wind of Coca-Cola’s gravity-free can for NASA, it started developing a space can of their own. The spat got so ugly that several Senators and even the White House got dragged into it. The shuttle mission finally launched with four cans of Coke and four cans of Pepsi aboard.

The astronauts final verdict: BLAH! Both cans were a waste of time. Of course, that didn’t stop Pepsi from claiming their can was “one giant sip for mankind.”

The rivalry is so intense. In 1985, a Coca-Cola employee was fired for dating a Pepsi worker. In 2003, a Coca-Cola truck driver was sacked after being spotted glugging down a drink made by PepsiCo. The list goes on and on.

You can learn about the Cola Wars Timeline from the YouTube video here.

So, which is it? Coke or Pepsi?

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