Pepsi began life in New Bern, North Carolina, in 1893, where it was created by pharmacist Caleb Bradham and originally known as ‘Brad’s Drink’.
In 1898, Brad’s Drink became known as Pepsi-Cola, a name derived from the word “dyspepsia,” another word for indigestion (these were the days when soft drinks were considered medicinal aids).
From there, the Pepsi-Cola Company grew rapidly. In 1903, Bradham officially trademarked the name, and in just a year, he’d sold 20,000 gallons of Pepsi-Cola syrup. By 1910, there were 240 Pepsi-Cola bottling franchises across 24 states.
The 1920s and 1930s were a challenging time for Pepsi-Cola, and at times, it looked like they’d be the losers in the burgeoning cola wars. As Coca-Cola opened bottling plants in Europe, Pepsi-Cola declared bankruptcy and was purchased by Craven Holdings Corp. In 1930, Pepsi-Cola filed for bankruptcy a second time.
By 1933, Pepsi-Cola found their first way to differentiate themselves from Coca-Cola, just by upping the size of their bottles to 12 ounces while keeping their five cent price tag. In the 1950s, Pepsi-Cola continued branding itself as the soda that delivers the better value. “More bounce to the ounce” was the tagline of the day, which promised more than just more soda per bottle than Coca-Cola. It promised more fun.
In 1964, when Pepsi’s advertising agency came up with the slogan “Come alive, you’re in the Pepsi Generation” they didn’t hire the best translators for international sales.
And so, in German, the slogan became “Come alive out of the grave”. In Chinese, it was worse: “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the dead”.
In 1975, Pepsi decided it was time to cut into Coke’s market dominance with the Pepsi Challenge. The Pepsi Challenge was a campaign Pepsi launched in 1975 to prove to the world that their soda tasted better than Coca-Cola.
In malls and other high-traffic pedestrian areas, passersby would be asked to do blind taste tests of Coke and Pepsi and say which they preferred. According to Pepsi, people preferred their soda over its competitor.
By the early 1980s, Pepsi was riding high on its status as the drink consumers preferred as it outsold Coca-Cola in supermarkets.
Not to be beaten by the sweeter soda, Coke switched up their recipe and introduced New Coke to the world. And people hated it. After New Coke faced a huge consumer backlash, Coca-Cola brought back the original recipe as Coke Classic, then quietly phased out New Coke so Coke Classic could just be Coca-Cola once again.