Maintaining a near duopoly on soda products, Coke and Pepsi are natural enemies.

The contention that exists between the two brands is best characterized by the well-known Pepsi Challenge, which asks strangers to sit down blindfolded, try both products, and decide once and for all which is superior.

Coke vs Pepsi Social Showdown

The general consensus from the taste test was that Pepsi was better. Of course, identifying which product is preferred is not really that simple. Furthermore, as Malcolm Gladwell points out, there are a few qualms with the methodology of the “sip test,” which was put on by PepsiCo.

Yet beyond the interaction of the fizzy soda against our palates there is another reaction affecting our tastes.

As any marketer will point out, a consumer’s experience is also influenced by every exposure to the brand’s messaging along the way.

So if the difference between these sodas is so marginal that it warrants a blindfolded taste test, then it’s likely that it’s the branding that will ultimately play a big role in consumers’ decisions.

The following analysis examines the ancient soda feud using organically occurring Twitter conversations.

This is the Coke-Pepsi Social Presence Showdown.

The data dump

Now for the data dump.

First off, let’s look at the conversation as a whole. In our latest report on the Restaurant, Food & Beverage industry, we examine the total share of voice for several leading soda brands.

Share of Voice for Soda Brands

Conversation around Coke was over 2.5 times greater than that of Pepsi.

That is perhaps unsurprising, as Coca-Cola’s market capitalization is over 30% greater than PepsiCo’s, Coca-Cola spends considerably more on advertising, and Coke has 120,000 more Twitter followers than Pepsi.

Furthermore, in our proprietary Social Index, Coke scored higher than Pepsi across all four categories.

Compares both Facebook and Twitter conversations directed at the brands for the month of April.

The raw numbers are clearly indicative of Coca-Cola’s dominance.

In April, Pepsi’s #outoftheblue sweepstakes campaign led for visibility on Twitter.

While the campaign, which offered fans the chance to travel, hang out with celebrities or enjoy other unique experiences, promoted brand mentions and awareness, the majority of the chatter focused on the prizes and offered little merit to the brand itself.

On the other hand, Coca-Cola’s revitalized #shareacoke campaign garnered more meaningful chatter, which had a specifically significant effect on the brand’s sentiment score.

A (somewhat) more qualitative look

While the quantitative analysis already depicts Coca-Cola’s product as a clear winner, a qualitative look at the actual tweets helps put some human context to the all the pie charts and bar graphs.

For the sake of the Coke-Pepsi Social Presence Showdown, what we were really interested in is the conversations comparing the two products.

Searching specifically for chatter mentioning both “Coke” and “Pepsi” painted a picture even more partial to Coke.

Scrolling through the conversations, an overwhelming majority of them state a clear preference for Coke (a quick sample estimates around 10 times as many tweets in favor of Coke).

Furthermore, while Pepsi proponents recognize that theirs is an “unpopular opinion,” Coke fans go as far to vehemently deem their Pepsi counterparts as “evil” or say they “don’t trust” them. That is brand loyalty.

Still, the most common form of tweet comparing the two brands referred to a familiar situation:

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The final decision

For the first showdown, the decision seems almost too obvious: Coke is a landslide winner.

Yet perhaps the more important question is: how can Pepsi adapt to gain a stronger social presence? The answers could again be hidden in social data.

Pepsi will have to find creative ways identify and amplify their passionate followers and comparative advantages.

As an example, the analysis below reveals what types of food consumers associate with the two beverages on social media:

While Coca-Cola is more often associated with burgers and french fries, Pepsi leans toward pizza. A similar analysis of alcohol brands revealed that while Coke dominates the Jack Daniels association, Pepsi has a comparative advantage with Appleton’s Rum.

Uncovering and emphasizing these natural associations, brands can begin to carve out and own niche segments of the market.

At the aggregate level, social media data can uncover or inform brand strategies to narrow in on competitors.

Yet at the individual level, a single tweet or Facebook post may inspire the creative campaign that brings a brand into the lead.

Brands that can see both the trees and the forest will ultimately be better suited to leverage the full range of capabilities that social media data offers.