Some weeks ago I read an article about why do we prefer Coke over Pepsi by the blogger Farnamstreet (1). It mentioned a marketing initiative by Pepsi some years ago, “The Pepsi Challenge”, in which blind test were organized to see whether consumers preferred one or the other. Pepsi consistently advantaged Coke in the tests.
The article mentions other studies in which it is explained why nevertheless Coke still outsells Pepsi. In the end it seems to be due to the powerful brand Coca Cola has created along history and its association with happiness and satisfaction. This is an extreme case of what Warren Buffett describes as moat:
Definition of ‘Economic Moat’
The competitive advantage that one company has over other companies in the same industry. This term was coined by renowned investor Warren Buffett.
Investopedia explains ‘Economic Moat’
The wider the moat, the larger and more sustainable the competitive advantage. By having a well-known brand name, pricing power and a large portion of market demand, a company with a wide moat possesses characteristics that act as barriers against other companies wanting to enter into the industry.
My preference for Coke
Luca and I did this kind of blind test about 4 years ago when we lived in Madrid. We had heard of these tests and I was sure I could distinguish one from the other.
Normally, I never buy Pepsi (except when you order a “cola” at some place where there is no Coke). For the test we purchased both Pepsi and Coke, and placed them in the fridge for a while. Then I got blinded. Luca took them out of the fridge and poured each in a different glass (same kind of glass) with ice cubes. Then she offered me one glass. I tasted it.
“Ok, I don’t even need to test the other one, this is Pepsi”, I said. Then, I thought “well let’s try the other to confirm my choice”. I tasted the other glass… then I tasted again the first one. I ended up completely lost. I couldn’t tell one from the other. I finally changed my initial decision.
I was wrong in the test. Since then, I have told some friends about the experiment. Most of these friends claim they would indeed distinguish one from the other. They would probably even state that they prefer Coke due to its flavour (of course, I have no friend who prefers Pepsi! Who does?)…
After having done the test, no doubt I continue to buy Coke, but now I am aware that it is partly due to some behavioural trick being played within my mind, the kind of trick explained in the article.
(1) Farnam Street being the street in Omaha where Berkshire Hathaway HQ are located.
NOTE: You may want to read this case by Charlie T. Munger, Berkshire Hathaway vice chairman, about the compounding effects that led to the tremendous success of this carbonated water drink. The essay was part of a lesson he gave at USC Business School in 1994 and appears in his book “Poor Charlie’s Almanack”.