Soft drinks are oftentimes thought to be one of life’s simple pleasures. Sipping an ice-cold soda on a hot day is an innocent experience that has been enjoyed by millions of people worldwide. Most people don’t take the time to look at are the methods that soda companies use to market their products.
In a recent New York Times article written by Grace Elizabeth Hale, the history of advertisement methods used by soda companies is explored. Advertisements have evolved from racist, classist, and s*xist , to being more all-inclusive. In the 1920’s and 30’s, Coca Cola marketed exclusively to Caucasians, their ads only featured white models and they rarely advertised in locations that only served blacks. By the 1940’s Pepsi was only marketing to black people, they even went as far as to hire a “negro markets department.” Their ads featured black models and they were predominantly displayed in businesses that served blacks.
Mountain Dew was also known as a company that utilized stereotype-based marketing. Their original mascot was Willy the Hillbilly, a riff on individuals living in the Appalachian Mountains. Now the soda brand is known to aggressively market to gamers. They’ve invested in cross marketing promotion with several major companies with ads featuring characters from triple A titles such as Halo, World of WarCraft and the massively popular Call of Duty franchise. Companies have also been known to market dietary soft drinks exclusively to women. Brands such as Tab and Diet Coke have been synonymous with women since their conception. Sprite has dominated the inner city market for years with urban oriented ads and major basketball based campaign targeting Black and Hispanic men directly.
The discussion of advertising for soft drinks derives from the opposition to New York City’s Mayor Bloomberg’s restrictions on soft drinks. The NAACP had taken up arms against the modification recently stating that, “At its worst, the ban arbitrarily discriminates against citizens and small-business owners in African-American and Hispanic communities.” Since Coca Cola has provided several donations to the NAACP over the years, it’s no surprise that the organization has stepped in to defend the company.