Interview with Advertising Veteran John Most:

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John Most ran an advertising agency for ten years of his 38 years in the industry. Now a professor at Chapman University, he joins us today to share his expertise on the timeless marketing of two soda giants, Coca-Cola and Pepsi and his views on the Pepsi-Kendall Jenner spot scandal.

Can you please describe Pepsi’s advertising style?

Pepsi’s advertising style has been really consistent over time, and I think what they did was they decided to try to stand apart from their competition, obviously being Coca-Cola, but they wanted to communicate that they were always going to be the beverage for this next generation. So there was, early on, the Pepsi generation, and that evolved over time, but even if you look at their ads today, that has not changed. They’re still targeting the younger, a little bit more hip, if you will, also a little bit more rebellious in some ways, so those basic roots of what their brand values are have not really changed over time. And I think that it’s right that they haven’t. They really have a very clearly defined target audience, and they’ve been very successful at growing their business that way.

And what is your opinion on using social justice issues in their advertising, and do you think that’s something they’ve done a lot in the past or is that a new thing to try to be a bit more edgy?

I think by using social justice issues, they felt it would resonate with their younger target audience, today’s younger Gen Z’s. A lot of people think it’s millennials- no, it’s actually Gen Z’s. And that generation has a very strong, clear definition of their social consciousness and what they believe in that differs from millennials. That’s a very close group in some cases. I think what they did in the Kendall Jenner spot was what I would call a strategic misfire that got a lot of backlash on social media. The idea of trying to introduce that and trying to appeal to their target was a good one, and I think that’s what their key insight was. We have this target, we know that they’re into social justice. Let’s go create an ad to tap into that.

Now, on to Coca Cola. Can you please describe their advertising style and how it contrasts from Pepsi’s?

Yeah, Coca-Cola, of course the main competitor to Pepsi, also has a very clearly defined target audience and very clearly defined brand image. Nobody at Coca Cola in Atlanta or at Pepsi in Somers, New York wants to tell you this. They’re both selling the same product. But what you’re buying is what that brand says about you. Their advertising has been very consistent over time. Rather than being the choice for the new generation like Pepsi, for Coca-Cola, it’s being at the heart of what America is. They talk about the taste and quenching your thirst, but if you look at their campaigns over time, they tap into what people would understand and recognize across the country and around the world. One of the most famous commercials was called “Hilltop” and the commercial has one person that starts to sing and she says “I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony” and then another person adds in. Now, these are people from around the world. And it was to communicate this sense of “we’re all in this together, we’re all one people”. The US spots that would run during the year were always about little pieces of Americana, and that’s something that I think has stood strong for many years, and I don’t see them making any plans to change that anytime soon.

Please feel free to contact John with any questions or comments at most@chapman.edu.

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