Behind-The-Scenes Corporate Branding Wars

Red Yellow and BluePreviously, I wrote about a story of industrial espionage in the cola wars.

I think everyone knows that large companies like Coke and Pepsi are always engaged in a branding war with their rivals. It’s mostly a game of advertising and it’s waged in front of us everyday on TV, radio, in print, on billboards and over the internet. But there are a lot of little things that happen behind the scenes too.

Here are a couple of interesting behind-the-scenes facts:

Lets Do Lunch

Grocery and convenience stores all carry both Coke and Pepsi. You have your choice of either company’s products when you go shopping. But restaurants only carry one or the other. Since both companies have a turn-key selection of pop, juice, sports drinks and bottled water and restauranteering is a tightly margined business with a need for efficiency this all works out well.

When executives or managers with one these soda makers are taking people out for lunch to a new restaurant, there’s one thing they absolutely have to do first …

They have to phone ahead and make sure the restaurant is carrying their brand. If the restaurant doesn’t, they’re not going there. It might sound a little petty at first, but branding is vitally important to success. And how embarassing would it be to take someone out to lunch only to have them be served your competitors product.

Fly The Flag

Every company has it’s corporate colors. For Pepsi it’s blue and for Coke it’s red.

A high-speed canning line for bottling pop or beer will typically produce 2000 cans per minute (no, that’s not a typo). It’s a really cool thing to see, especially if you like mechanics or automation.

Some of the main manufacturers of the plastic conveyor that’s used to move the bottles from one machine to the next make their stock conveyor in blue. It’s not a problem with independent companies. It’s certainly not a problem for Pepsi. But it is a problem for Coke.

An equipment dealer that took me on a tour of a Coke plant a few years ago pointed out that there were no blue conveyors. Whenever Coca-Cola buys conveyors or equipment that has conveyor in it, they specify no blue conveyor in the contract.

The only reason is that blue is the corporate color of their main competitor Pepsi.

Isn’t This All Kind Of Ridiculous?

Maybe. But not to them. And not to a lot of major companies in industries where there are a few top rivals all competing to be number one. Branding is crucial to success. Whether it’s on your product on the shelf, at the lunch table, or back at home base, hyper-competitive companies are always thinking about branding, corporate colors, and who might see it, and where.

ps. The picture is Barnett Newman’s 1966 painting entitled Who’s Afraid Of Red, Yellow And Blue? It seemed to fit the post.