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There are various flavours of carbonated drinks in Nigeria, each has its target audience and customers base but, there is a ‘small world’, as I like to refer it as, within these flavours of carbonated drinks. This small world is contained by ‘cola flavoured drinks’, though people may beg to differ but, I think there is no doubt that Nigerians consume cola flavoured drinks more than any other flavour. Growing up, I used to believe people consumed more of Orange, Strawberry and Apple flavours because, they were my favourite and I thought only hand workers such as plumbers, labourers, bricklayers and carpenters consumed more of these flavours but, as I began to mature, I found out that the scope of people who consumed this particular flavour cut across different varieties of workers, from office workers to teachers, athletes, and even celebrities. In this small world, we have different brands manufacturing and selling cola drinks, some of which are; Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Bigi Cola, Big Cola, RC Cola and so on.
Even though we have quite a number of brands competing for power in this small world, there are some brands people refer to as the ‘top Dogs’, where cola drinks are concerned. The first brand most will mention maybe Coca-Cola, then next might be Pepsi, then recently Bigi Cola, then probably Big Cola, after which others follow. Though this ranking may be subject to people’s opinion, there are statistics that show Coca-Cola and Pepsi are and should be at the top of this ranking. Since the arrival of Coca-Cola into the Nigerian market in 1951, it has maintained a good level of consistency and remained at the top, Pepsi joined afterwards in the 1990s and has continued to struggle for power with Coca-Cola, in recent years brands like Bigi Cola, Big Cola and the likes have also shown good promise in keeping up with the intensity and changing trends of this market. I like to call the power struggle between these brands ‘the battle of the cola’s’. Each brand reacts to the marketing strategies of their competitors, they come up with various ways of staying on top or climbing up top in the market. Even though Coca-Cola and Pepsi are the top in this industry, they still come up with innovative strategies to increase their sales numbers and why won’t they? the new players in the market are equally as innovative as them.
Coca-Cola and Pepsi have been at the top of the cola rankings for years but, In 2015 there was a ‘surprise act’, that shock the two brands. Big Cola broke into the market with a well thought out plan, they used two important factors, which Nigerians took into consideration before purchasing any product, which was; price and quantity. At that time Pepsi and Coca-Cola were sold at N100 each and had a quantity of 50cl, Big Cola knew they had to do something special in order to break into a market this competitive so, they capitalized on the buying preference of their target audience. Big Cola initially sold at N90, with a quantity of 60cl, which was cheaper than both Pepsi and Coca-Cola, Pepsi was affected more but, it made them react with an effective strategy. Later that year, Pepsi started a quantity discount campaign called ‘Pepsi long throat’, the hashtag for this campaign was tagged ‘#THINGSILONGTHROATFOR’, it was driven by online influencers and brand ambassadors like; Tiwa Savage, WizKid and others, the aim of this campaign was to increase the product’s content by 20%, from 50cl to 60cl. This campaign was quite effective because Pepsi sales increased. Just when Coca-Cola and Pepsi though they only had to deal with Big Cola, Rite foods launched their new product ‘Bigi cola’, in 2016. It was sold for N100 and had a quantity of 60cl, it was 5cl lesser than Big Cola but, it had more quantity than Coca-Cola at the time it was an indigenous brand, which kind of appealed to Nigerians.
In 2017, due to the economic crisis in the country, the ‘cola brands’ increased their product prices, they were sold for N120 and N130 depending on the vendors who sold them. Pepsi was selling at N120 for 60cl, Big Cola was selling at N120 for 65cl, Bigi cola was also selling at N120 for 60cl, Coca-Cola was also sold at the same price but, for 50cl, at the moment Coca-Cola was looking disadvantaged but, they did something unexpected. The Coca-Cola ‘pet bottle’ was introduced, it was sold at N100 for 35cl and the ‘bigger boy’ was also introduced into the market, which was sold at N150 for 60cl, this disrupted the pricing balance and in reaction to this strategic move by Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Bigi Cola and Big Cola were some worth forced to revert their prices back to N100.
Cola brands have racked us with unforgettable and inviting adverts but, in recent years they have also added celebrity endorsement as part of their marketing plans. Pepsi signed famous Nigerian musicians such as; Davido, WizKid, Tiwa Savage, they also signed deals with footballers and DJs such as; DJ Obi, DJ Exclusive, Alex Iwobi and so on. Coca-Cola has not been slacking either, they also have different celebrities as their ambassadors including; 2baba, Rema, Simi and many others. The essence of these endorsements is to appeal to the fans of these celebrities and also advertise their products the online influence of these celebrities. Though it may seem like Pepsi does more adverts or is dominating the online presence, Coca-Cola has shown to use both online marketings, through their various YouTube ads and other display ads. Coca-Cola also utilises offline marketing, around 2016, Coca-Cola gave various vendors all around the country their transparent refrigerators, looking at this movie from a blindside it looked like unnecessary expenses but, from a marketing point of view, it was a brilliant move, they gave the vendors the condition no other product should be stored in the refrigerators except Coca-Cola products. The refrigerators were Coca-Cola customized and since they had transparent doors, the drinks were easily seen, which served as an advertisement for the brand on its own. The refrigerators could keep drinks cold for a long period of time. Because, of their sizes, they are usually In front of the shops, stores or restaurants, which means when most customers come in, the first drink they usually see is Coca-Cola.
Over the years, ‘the battle of the cola’s has witnessed different tactics and marketing strategies, the intensity and mind-blowing plans are some of the reasons why this ‘small world’ is regarded as the biggest market in the carbonated drinks sector.
Countributor: Titilope Agbaje
LinkedIn: Titilope Agbaje