Pepsi Challenge 2010

Disclaimer: I was not asked to write this post. I was not paid to write this post. I was not given free product to write this post. This post is–amazingly enough–just a post. It is not some sneaky, reverse-psychological mind trick I am using to actually advertise Pepsi products to you, my loyal and faithful readers, and I am not in cahoots with Pepsi. Thank you for your time and attention.

I like Pepsi. I don’t love Pepsi. Although I believe Pepsi to be a very suitable second-best, I’ve been a Coca-Cola girl for ages. Why? I just like it better. Don’t hate: if you prefer Pepsi, I’m not judging you. There are “Pepsi people” and “Coca-Cola people” as much as there are “dog people” and “cat people”. Of course, the fact that I consider Pepsi to be a very suitable second-best combined with the fact that I have always been a soda freak* means that I will always request Coke at a restaurant first, but if Pepsi is what’s around, I’m drinking it. (Fickle? No, just thirsty.)

I was in the store over the weekend and saw something that made my ice-cold Coca-Cola heart soften up a little bit, a bottle of Pepsi with a “throwback” label. SO. COOL. I totally never thought I’d see THAT again.

Mentally, I was immediately taken back to childhood and found my head swimming with memories that could easily been straight from a warm and fuzzy soda commercial**. I remember doing cartwheels in my best friend’s front yard, helping my mom with our twice-yearly garage sales, taking ceramics lessons in some lady’s garage, all with a Pepsi–A PEPSI–nearby to quench my thirst.

No Coke, Pepsi!

Could it be that my mother just purchased Pepsi more often than Coke back then? Was Pepsi more readily available than Coke in the south suburbs of Chicago? At some point, I switched to Coke. For some reason, I can’t remember the circumstances surrounding that monumental shift of the tides***.

A few years later than those memories–to be specific, the early 1980’s–I was a huge fan of the Pepsi Challenge. The Pepsi Challenge–probably one of the first major battles in the Cola Wars–was a blind taste test during which Coke and Pepsi would go head to head in the mouths of those willing to make an educated guess about it. Why did I like it? Because I could ALWAYS tell the difference between Pepsi and Coke. (Still can.) I always laughed at the people who took the challenge who claimed to have “no idea that this was Pepsi!” as they grinned into the camera as if they were part of a cheesy sitcom opening sequence. Of course, this being a major advertising campaign, Pepsi hired a major (back then) television star to conduct some commercial Challenges, Gabe Kaplan of “Welcome Back, Kotter.” (I wonder if he called his agent after the first day on set, shrieking into the phone, “Pepsi Challenge? Pepsi Challenge? I thought this was Battle of the Network Stars!! You’re fired!”)

(And yes, *I* noticed that the last guy’s name was “Joe Kielbasa”. Did you?)

I have personally experienced many Pepsi Challenges in real life. How the heck did that happen, you ask? Have a seat and get a soda (your choice); I’m gonna tell you.

During the 1982 World’s Fair in Knoxville (Holla! to Tara and JCO, my Knoxvegas peeps), Pepsi had representatives there, conducting “The Challenge”. Being a Season Pass holder and frequent visitor (the hotel my Dad managed was within walking distance of the Fair, and we spent all kinds of time there), I knew where to go when I was thirsty…to the Pepsi Challenge! It was there that I was handed two small cups of soda to drink and analyze. I pretended that I was there to do The Challenge for the challenge itself, but actually I was just parched. (Sorry, Pepsi. I was only using you, but you weren’t alone. If I found myself in a thirsty state on the other end of the fairgrounds, I went to the building where the booth promoting unrefrigerated milkin plain, chocolate, and strawberry!–was, and took advantage of their generosity.)

Apparently, for me, Pepsi = Good Times.

Fast forward again to this weekend when I found that awesomely retro-looking bottle of Pepsi. As I tend to do when I discover something this exciting in my little world, I arrived at home and started thinking that maybe I should have bought more than one.

Then I realized that I was being totally ridiculous. And that this marketing campaign is GENIUS. Why? Because it made me want to spend lots of money on bottles of a product that I wouldn’t normally buy, just because of the cute label. I mean, really, what kind of advertising prodigies came up with something so incredibly brilliant?? Pepsico, you Cheeky Monkeys! I don’t like to spend money frivolously, and investing in a case or two (or three) of retro-packaged cola would be silly.

But I sorta didn’t care.

My Pepsi Challenge 2010? Resisting the urge to buy. It was T-O-U-G-H.

I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I felt like, if I only ended up with the one bottle, I’d be missing out on something great…like drinking Pepsi, my second-place soda, out of cool bottles that only I cared about. I thought about it, and thought about it, and thought about it, and, ten minutes later (ba dum bum!), after looking online only to discover that they were stocked in stores through this past Monday, was forced to conclude decided that one bottle was enough.

Good news for me, though; I had conquered the Pepsi Challenge, one last time.

*Drinking more soda than water, milk, or juice is a sad but true factoid about my entire life that I wish had been different.
**In fact, I am 78% sure that these memories ARE actually from my own life and not from commercials.
***Dramatic, No?


©2010 Suburban Scrawl


  • Tara R.

    I remember the Challenges too… same here, how can someone NOT be able to tell the difference between Coke and Pepsi. I'm not hard core either way on taste preference, I'm more of a 'whichever is on sale' kinda consumer.

  • Mr. Man

    What a cool post! I took the same trip down memory lane when I saw the retro bottle in a local C-store. It took me back to the '80s and childhood and the Pepsi Challenge. And it used REAL sugar. I can always count on you to take me "back in the day".

  • kat

    Even I remember the Pepsi challenge, though we had only Club and Vita Cola in East Germany. Coca Cola was the first "real" cola I was introduced to when, during one summer in the 80s my best friends relatives came to visit from the West. The lady worked at the coke bottling plant in Germany and gave me my first Coke. Totally digress.
    1) I like Coke better than Pepsi in Germany

    2) I like Pepsi better than Coke in the US. It just tastes better there. Weird.

    3) Just the other day the hubby and I watched an 80s movie and I commented on how simple looking the Pepsi cans were back then. Haha coincidentally the same look as the bottle above.

    I ♥ your post. It brings back sooo many memories.

  • nycgirl0501

    Cute bottle!

    I didn't see it in my supermarket because I was walking up and down the aisle mumming to myself "What is wrong with these people the dont have diet coke!"

    I bought one bottle of diet pepsi…also my acceptable 2nd choice drink 🙂

  • WeaselMomma

    Throwback is cool and I bought some & loved it because it's the old recipe that actually used SUGAR and not corn syrup to sweeten. You should have stocked up.

  • Evan

    Cool post. I have been loving the throwback sodas. Dr. Pepper had one called Heritage Dr. Pepper that was the same concept; made with real sugar, not corn syrup. It was okay too.

  • Mags

    I actually love Coke better than Pepsi and growing up had to endure Pepsi when visiting family b/c people in NY like it better…apparently.

    I also experienced a Pepsi challenge at the Galleria Mall in White Plains NY. My aunt and I were shopping and there were these booths set up with partitions. Curiously we looked around and saw taste testing. I don't remember how we were allowed to do it (she was in high school and I was in elementary school) but they humored us. They were sad that I picked the other one.

  • Heather

    I can absolutely taste a difference between Pepsi & Coke. Now I'm a diet drinker, so I don't care between diet pepsi/diet coke (though i slight love diet coke more!). BUT, that being said– If I'm drinking in bottle form, I want a Pepsi. If it's fountain? Pepsi. If it's a can? ICE COLD COKE. ha ha ha.

    I didn't get to try this, but my BFF Lins did and she loved it!

  • Heather

    slightly*, and if I am not drinking diet (and that's rare) then I prefer Coke, unless it's n a bottle, and then I go for Pepsi 😉

    Sheesh, I got so excited, my comment made NO SENSE. 😉

  • Dawn

    I almost shrieked when I saw the Pepsi bottle on YOUR blog! I thought to myself…step away from the Pepsi, Melisa! Then I was relieved to find out that you are still a Coke girl. 🙂

    Have you ever had Mexican Coke? They make theirs with sugar instead of HFCS and it tastes so much better, but I can't find it very often.

    Oh, and when we were moving here from WV, Scott and his dad sent me to the store for Cokes and I came back with Pepsi since that was the only cold cola I could find. They were carrying a dresser down the stairs when I walked in the door and announced my find and they stopped and just stared at me. I hightailed it back to the store for some warm Coke to put on ice! LOL

    We love our Cokes!

  • sandra

    I am totally a Coke fan (but have been trying to stop drinking any soda, it's been hard!). My bff loves Pepsi because it's what they had more in her country when she was growing up. If we go somewhere and they only have one, we'll bitch each other out on why we won't have the others choice.

    My mom is one of those people who will buy the drink for the packaging.
    Many years ago, my mom bought a six-pack of Coke glass bottles and we drank the Cokes by mistake. Well, she made tea, yes, tea, to make it look like Coke so she could put the six-pack back up on her Curio cabinet (where she had stuff she called her 'curiosities').

    Now that I think about it, if you go to my kitchen right now, somewhere, there are three mini aluminum bottles of Coke we found in this little shanty store in Wisconsin last summer. Oi.

  • Sue

    I don't drink Coke or Pepsi, but when I saw the cute trhowback bottles, I wanted to buy them just for the memories! Fabulous marketing technique!

    I <3 Gabe Kaplan. I don't remember him doing the commercials though. I wonder where Joe Kielbasa is now…….

  • Darrin..

    Ah yes.. the Pepsi challenge! We used to have our own as kids, and the outcome would change every time!! I like both drinks. Well.. both older versions made with real sugar that is. I recently blogged about Pepsi Throwback, and shortly after that about Coke in glass bottles made with sugar that you can still buy (if you know where to look).

    As for throwback diet soda which is all I'm drinking these days.. wouldn't it be cool to see an old TAB can?!?