Sunday, October 19, 2008

Brand Palimpsests

I am loyal to Coca Cola in the soft drink product category. Coke communicates vitality and always has an appeal to modernity. As Neumeier and Keller postulate, successful products are experiential and Coke is that but further, it’s a part of my life. With its campaigns throughout history, The Pause that Refreshes, The Real Thing, and Max Headroom, Coke positions itself as something that fits into my lifestyle. It’s a cultural touchstone.

To me Coke communicates style and energy while Pepsi, in contrast, seems base and impoverished. This is not a result of what Pepsi is doing today, because I find them to be adequately following Coke’s initiatives. For example, Coke is leading the beverage industry in environmentally friendly containers (see Business Wire). Everyone else, including Pepsi is now following suit. No, my perception of Pepsi has to do with its history. Past communications were low cost in comparison to Coke, no art and clumsy.

The Pepsi Generation. Yipes! They improved over time but my consciousness of them is a palimpsest and the earlier writing they did on my psyche won’t ever go away completely.
They have never had anything like the Hilltop commercial: Hilltop Ad. This is how I still view Coca Cola.

On the other hand, in the computer hardware category, I am completely agnostic. I do not differentiate between Dell, HP, Compaq, eMachines, Sony, or any of them. Microsoft Windows has commoditized computer hardware. Price is the overriding determinant in my purchase decision. I am not loyal because I am really buying Windows, which sits between the computer and myself. Microsoft is the middleman controlling my access to what I want.

I have a growing interest in Apple, and now have two Macs. Apple is a completely different product and does not try to compete on hardware features but has given me a different middleman, a Linux based operating system - OS X, to the Microsoft applications I like, especially Office. Perhaps the others could try the same thing, although if they do they may commoditize operating systems, and drag Apple and even Microsoft into the same bad place they now occupy as undifferentiated products in a losing race to the lowest price.


Keller, Kevin (2008). Strategic Brand Management 3rd Ed. Pearson/Prentice-Hall.

Neumeier, Marty (2006). The Brand Gap. New Riders.

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