HolyCoast: No Pepsi - Coke!
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Saturday, February 28, 2009

No Pepsi - Coke!

Probably the most fawning example of corporate rear end kissing of the new administration is Pepsi's revamped logo which is almost identical to the Obama logo. However the fawning hasn't paid off in attracting loyalty from the Obama people:

In an apparent homage to the new President, PepsiCo has plastered the sides of buses and bus stops in the nation's capital with slogans like "Yes You Can," "Optimismmmm" and "Hope." In each poster, the letter O is inscribed with the redesigned Pepsi logo, a red, white and blue sphere that echoes the rising-sun image used by the Obama campaign.

It is not hard to interpret the message. Since 1984, Pepsi has been marketing itself as the hip, happening beverage of youth — "The choice of a new generation," as its longtime slogan went. And Barack Obama, one of the youngest men to serve as President, is nothing if not hip, especially among young consumers who supported him by wide margins. Pepsi says the campaign is not a political endorsement. "We're not interested in following political tailwinds," says Nicole Bradley, a Pepsi spokeswoman. "But we are interested in cultural change."

That said, the marketing campaign, which includes TV and print ads as well, does raise a question: Is Pepsi actually the choice of the Obama Administration?

My reporting at the White House suggests the answer is a resounding no. Several senior Administration officials are committed cola drinkers, and without fail they spend their days sipping from a can of Diet Coke, a product of Pepsi's chief competitor, Coca-Cola. On Monday, as members of Congress and key lobbyists filed into a briefing room for the final event of a daylong fiscal summit, they were greeted with an ice chest full of complimentary Diet Coke, not Diet Pepsi. (Montana Democratic Senator Max Baucus was one of many to grab a can.) Hours earlier, at a breakout session with members of Congress in the Indian Treaty Room, Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag handled not one, but two cans of Diet Coke during the nearly two-hour session. Larry Summers, Obama's top economic adviser, rarely walks anywhere in the White House complex without a can of Diet Coke in his hand. He is well known for interrupting conversations to take another swig.

But these examples do not even constitute the most damning evidence against Pepsi. Late last year, Obama's nascent Administration worked out of transition offices in a downtown government building, which was serviced by only Pepsi-brand vending machines, according to three people who worked in the building. Two Administration officials have told me that a group of Obama aides, frustrated by having to run the security gauntlet to go to the corner store, stocked a refrigerator with Diet Coke in open rebellion against the available options. The pattern has continued at the White House. In his West Wing office, as in his previous office at Harvard University, Summers has a refrigerator stocked with cans of the decidedly non-Pepsi beverage.

Pepsi can't be happy about this article.

For the record, I prefer Pepsi despite their fawning over Obama.

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