News: Pepsi’s Red Can in China


Do you remember when Pepsi moved from their historic red/white/blue color scheme to the predominant blue one? They adopted blue as their color in 1996 to counterbalance Coke’s longstanding “ownership” of the color red. I used to collect Pepsi cans, so this branding change made quite an impact on me.

Pepsi’s Red Can in China

Pepsi’s red can next to Coke’s can
(Source: The Wall Street Journal)

Over in China, it looks like Pepsi is mixing things up a little in regards to color. You see with the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing around the corner, Coke is promoting their exclusive sponsorship on their cans.

Pepsi’s Red Can in China

The original blue look of Pepsi’s China can
(Source: PepsiCo China via YouTube)

So what does Pepsi do? They went out and became a sponsor of Team China, the brand associated with China’s national team, according to an article in The Wall Street Journal. Supposedly to “show their support”, Pepsi is recoloring their cans to be red, the same color as the national team… while also adding sports-related iconography, much like the official Olympic sponsor Coke cans. Talk about some interesting guerrilla marketing!

Pepsi’s Red Can in China

One side of Pepsi’s new red can
(Source: PepsiCo China via YouTube)

Pepsi’s Red Can in China

Opposite side of Pepsi’s red can
(Source: PepsiCo China via YouTube)

Looking at the image provided by the WSJ, the cans do look pretty similar in color and design. There’s also a commercial on YouTube proclaiming the color change.

Pepsi, as is typically the case, is behind Coke in sales to the China market:

Coke holds a commanding lead of overall carbonated soft-drink sales in the country, with a 51% market share in 2006, led by its Coca-Cola and Sprite brands, against Pepsi’s 30% share, according to Beverage Digest, a U.S.-based beverage-industry trade publication. But Pepsi has slowly been increasing its share. According to market researcher Euromonitor International, Coke sold 4.33 billion liters of carbonated drinks in China last year, 70% more than its sales volume in 2000. Pepsi sold 2.93 billion liters last year, 93% more than in 2000.

It will be interesting to see if Coke throws any legal action Pepsi’s way because of this. You typically see this type of behavior quite a bit as an Olympics draws closer… the unofficial folks try to ride the coattails of the event without having to pay the big bucks of the official Olympics sponsors.