The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bottle battle of blue and red

There’s no chance of the battle of the colas going flat this Puja. With Coke making its way over 500 pandals across the state, and Pepsi registering at over 250, the blue and red wars have reached every corner possible, the black beverage is as fizzy as ever.

Though most pandals have evidence of both soft-drink majors on campus, “official” tie-ups mean more on-site branding and bigger, more prominent positioning of stalls.

Pepsi’s numerous festive schemes will only be available at the pandals it has tied up with, including “66 major pujas across the city”, like Maddox Square, Ekdalia, Babubagan, Mohd. Ali Park, Santosh Mitra Square, College Square and Sreebhumi.

But the stress of Pepsi’s “Mone Masti, Haathe Pepsi” campaign has been, significantly, rural Bengal. Though the drink is positioned more as a youth status symbol than its conservative counterpart Coke, Pepsi Foods is looking away from the yuppie crowd to the districts.

“Last year, we had tied up with 170 pujas, and this year, the 80 new pujas we have added to the list are mainly outside the city,” explains Harish Natarajan, vice-president, operations, Pepsi.

To further the “community involvement”, Pepsi has also launched the Shera Para, Crowner Dara promo, where para pujas will receive a portion of the proceeds from Pepsi sales at their pandals. Pepsi has zeroed in on the rural areas as a key growth zone.

“This year, we have targeted villages with a population of over 5,000 through our distribution network. Next year, we plan to move into those with over 2,000,” adds Natarajan. Price slashes and World Cup promotions have also been introduced.

The red rival has chosen the urban consumer as target. Coke and Thums Up will be visible at 505 pandals, of which 338 are in the city, including crowd-pullers like Ekdalia, Maddox Square, Park Circus, Santosh Mitra Square, Bosepukur and Telengabagan.

It has, however, stayed away from schemes, opting, like Pepsi, to slash rates.

Durga puja, the “mini-season” after the sweltering summer, calls for months of stocking, as well as increased investment by way of coolers for both companies. “We wanted to ensure that our product was available — cold — at all the outlets,” explains Kevin Tressler, regional marketing manager, Coke. Last year, the multinational had tied up with 400 pujas.

“We have been stocking up for the past two months to meet the puja demand,” he reveals. In addition to the wide distribution net, regional ads have been introduced for both Coke and Thums Up.

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