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Food Fight
In the midst of Americans questioning good and bad carbohydrates, Pepsi and Coca-Cola released their own half-carb soft drinks. Each one promises great taste with half the sugars and calories, not unlike Marlboro Mediums with half the tar and nicotine. It’s only a matter of time before we see half-calorie pizza by Domino’s. But what surprised me most about this low-cal revitalization by the soft drink giants was how little emphasis they put on visual presence. These are not instant artifacts we’re witnessing in the supermarket aisles, they’re instant chic, and they’re competing with other bottles and cans.

Of course, the companies want their consumers to recognize the brands. Had Pepsi or Coke created something so unique that it alienated their core customers, the products would not reach the intended bellies. In order to follow the path from shelf to hand to mouth to stomach, each beverage owns its own set of visual attributes that compare favorably with the rest of product line. But would you want to drink them on looks alone?

Like Pepsi’s other brand vehicles, EDGE participates in the product unification rather well. It looks comfortable sitting next to Pepsi, Vanilla Pepsi, Lemon Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, and Pepsi ONE. Yet it lacks both visual ambition and calories. Observing Pepsi ONE and Pepsi, I had the impression that the marketing/design department used an El Camino approach to designing the Pepsi EDGE packaging, taking something from ONE and another something from regular, and finally fusing them together. In the end, they added an all caps EDGE near their flagship mark, with what appears to be some semi-serif oblique version of the typeface Serpentine. The new packaging contains a shiny hint of silver that lends both the cans and bottles significance and glow.

On the competing front, Coke’s C2 plays well with its brothers and sisters too. Over the past two years, Coca-Cola introduced a total of four unique product lines. Now the trademark Coca-Cola logotype shares the stage with an assertive C2 set in an extended sans serif face. I believe that C2 will be the half-cal soft drink of choice for a collection of architects and graphic designers from coast to coast. But the new reduced calorie consumable does fall from grace on one account, a lack of visual contrast. I didn’t see enough visual pop from the swooshing and exploding backdrop of red, black, and gray. Adding to the visual mire, Coke chose to replace their token white typography on a red field with black over silver shadow on a red field. From a reading distance of seven to eight feet, I could barely notice the C2 on the upper quarter of the can (even though it was offset by a silver field) because it just looked like some unusual glare.

Fighting off this visual riot, C2 spoke with an angst-ridden voice, “Don’t ignore me,” that I attributed to the gothic color combination. Even though Coke made subtle design changes in launching this line, the striking black on red identity possessed a more edgy character than Pepsi’s EDGE, which felt sporty and fraternizing in comparison. C2 owns the rock and roll anthems blasted by the likes of AC/DC or Dokken; Pepsi EDGE bounces with the Spice Girls or Backstreet Boys playing in the background.

Soft drinks are just one phase of this consumable revolution. Keep your eyes out for “new” packaging of potato chips, alcoholic beverages, candy bars, or frozen meals on the shelves. Regardless of the visual standards these products will adopt, taste matters, and I don’t mean which typeface they use or how colors are combined. After trying C2 and Edge, trust me when I say you’d get the same results by letting two to three ice cubes melt in the regular versions of each soft drink and then adding a packet of NutraSweet. I can only hope these foodstuffs will nourish our economy more than my eyes and tongue.

Jason A Tselentis completed his Master’s thesis at the University of Washington with campaigns that challenged sedentary lifestyles and diet choices.

Maintained through our ADV @ UnderConsideration Program
PUBLISHED ON Jul.26.2004 BY Jason A. Tselentis
Michael’s comment is:

Yup, I didn't even realize "C2" was a new product from Coke until I had seen this new can on a second occasion... and I thought "my eyes are playing tricks on me -again!" But then upon a second-look, I realized "Hey, a new Coke..." and thought maybe they wanted it to be low-key.

I really don't get this new direction, as far as products go. I drink Coke, Dr. Pepper, or Barq's because the taste is richer and stronger, but I drink soft drinks in the first place because of the sugar and caffeine. These all-nighters don't happen by themselves.

Sorry for the tangent. Getting back on track, I really got the impression that Coke was sneaking this onto the market because the only place I've seen this new product is on the shelf or in the vending machine. I really can't say that I've seen a single commercial or magazine ad yet. That, and the new "subtle" design (sorry Jason, it doesn't yell at me like it does you) tells me it's trying to sneak up on me and then suck me in as a consumer when I'm not looking.

On Jul.26.2004 at 04:58 PM
.sara’s comment is:

I don't care for the C2 can in the least. The "C2" itself only brings T2 to mind. "Send to back" is all I can think when I see that black logotype.

On Jul.26.2004 at 05:18 PM
Patrick C’s comment is:

Naming a new product "Edge" is ass.

C2 is only slightly less ass.

Niether design looks light, carb-reduced. The Coke one almost says the opposite.

On Jul.26.2004 at 05:28 PM
James Song’s comment is:

Funny thing is, Round Table Pizza now has a "low carb" pizza - it's just a pizza with a thin crust but it's being billed as having "33% less carbs!" or whatever. That's pretty ass.

On Jul.26.2004 at 10:56 PM
Jason’s comment is:

Whoa, folks. I never realized low-cal foodstuff would bring about so much angst! Keep it clean! I mean, this stuff's supposed to lighten your a$%, not upset it.

On Jul.26.2004 at 11:56 PM
RavenOne’s comment is:

With all this low-carb,low-cal, low-in-nearly everything mania that's going on, it's insanely hard for a scrawny little nothing to get her little claws on food with SUBSTANCE. What's next? Food with no nutrient value whatsoever (not even my prescious caffiene and sugars?) packaged as the Next Best Thing? Perhaps.

It took me a while to realize the new products were new products and not just a re-design of the imagery and name. I'd seen them at the store, but until this article it just never ..clicked..and it never got my attention. Than again, I'm a mountain dew fan (regular, not the blue, red, orange or other versions of mountain dew from alternate universes) myself.

On Jul.27.2004 at 12:24 AM
Su’s comment is:

I can beat the low-cal pizza: There's apparently a place here in Chicago that has solved the carb issue of the crust by replacing it with sausage. No, seriously.

As for (potato) chips, I saw new Doritos the other day that're partially made with soy, besides the usual corn. The thing I find kind of interesting is that they're actually made differently, rather than just reducing some given ingredient as most of these products seem to do(ie: the new low-sugar versions of some cereals, which seems kind of backhanded to me).

Various low-cal/-carb alcoholic drinks have already been out for a while. Most bizarrely, Michelob Ultra was practically marketed as a health product. I actually saw billboards for a club a while back touting that they had it in stock.

On Jul.27.2004 at 04:27 AM
Su’s comment is:

Health club, I mean.

On Jul.27.2004 at 04:28 AM
Armin’s comment is:

> I can beat the low-cal pizza: There's apparently a place here in Chicago that has solved the carb issue of the crust by replacing it with sausage. No, seriously.

There is also Jimmy John's Unwich, where they wrap any sandwich of your choosing in lettuce. Yeah… that's tasty…

Graphically, part of the problem with these new low-carb drinks is that they are caught in the middle of regular soft drink and light soft drink. All regular soft drinks have darker cans and diet soft drinks have light cans. Check any brand: 7up Fat is green, 7up Diet is white; same with Mountain Dew; Coke Fat is red, Coke Diet is light gray; Dr. Pepper Fat is maroon, Dr Pepper Diet is white. And so forth. So all these soft drinks that fall somewhere in the middle are harder to "version", that's why I think they are graphically falling short. It might also be the case where these lower carb drinks eventually replace the fattening ones so by doing packaging that doesn't stray much from the original they can eventually default to these half-there cans.

Has anybody else noticed that Pepsi is growing little serifs? I had noticed a few months back but you can clearly see it in the picture provided by Jason. I guess it's more dynamic… or whatever.

On Jul.27.2004 at 08:40 AM
Darrel’s comment is:

Low carb craze = proof of consumers' mob gullibility.

(Though I am looking forward to the new Cinnamon Toast Crunch using Splenda!)

On Jul.27.2004 at 10:19 AM
RavenOne’s comment is:


The 'growing little serifs' comment somehow made me imagine pepsi cans in pregnancy garb spawning strange font-children...

...and no, I don't want to know what could make a pepsi can give birth to fonts...

On Jul.27.2004 at 10:28 AM
RavenOne’s comment is:

Why don't they make a Pepsi "All Nighter" Twice the carbs, sugars and caffiene!

I'd buy it...

On Jul.27.2004 at 10:35 AM
Jason’s comment is:

All Nighter? What would that can look like? All black with silver type? Maybe it would shake and jitter, just like the physical reaction you'd get from ingesting the product.

On Jul.27.2004 at 10:39 AM
Brent’s comment is:

My initial beef with C2's marketing (and Coke in general) is that they had billboards (pre-release) with the original coke bottle silhouette on it. Before I knew what it was I got excited that it was a reintroduction of the glass bottle. I've pretty much stopped drinking soda altogether but I would seek out the bottle (the 16oz version, I know that they import the mexican bottles but it's not 16oz, hence, not the one I grew up with.) Coca-Cola— stop teasing me with the large bottles of Coke that you're not making available to me.

Lou Malnati's had that sausage crust thing too, ick.

Raven- They've been making it since the 80s. It's called http://www.beveragesdirect.com/products/jolt/" target="_blank">Jolt. I don't know who makes it though.

On Jul.27.2004 at 10:40 AM
Jason’s comment is:

I love how the logo is literally jolted by a lightening strike across the o's counter. Very cute.

On Jul.27.2004 at 10:44 AM
Michael’s comment is:

I have the hardest time finding Jolt in my area. Red Bull was a savior, but even it didn't work all the time. Now, when I know I'll have a late/all nighter, I drink Bawls. It may eat away at your stomach lining over time, but it sure as hell works.

I have a comment about Pepsi's logo that has been bugging me for the last few years. It seems incomplete. When they use the "globe" without the name Pepsi running over the top of it (they'll use it with the tagline "it's the cola" underneath)... it just seems very generic awkward, and has no power. Not to mention that the swoosh (that seperates the red and the blue) seems like a rip-off of Coca-Cola's swoosh.

On Jul.27.2004 at 11:04 AM
JonSel’s comment is:

Coke Fat

That's a kick-ass new product idea you've got there.

Neither design looks light, carb-reduced. The Coke one almost says the opposite.

My reaction to C2 is the same. It doesn't seem very "light". It seems like it's heavier and more intense than Classic (or Coke Fat!). I assume that's part of the marketing plan. If it looks lighter, you make an assumption that it doesn't have the same taste as Classic. It's all mind tricks. If you expect it to have the same depth of flavor, you might actually convince yourself that it does.

Anyway, I refuse to succumb to the low-carb trend. Simply lowering your carb intake isn't going to drastically change your weight. If I want to really lose pounds, exercise and eating healthier foods (and not drinking Coke) is what I'd do. Plus, this engineered food kick makes me nervous. In 2 years, there will be a study saying carbs cure cancer, and we'll all be back chowing down on the pasta.

On Jul.27.2004 at 11:13 AM
Jason’s comment is:

Just too similar. Even today, they're still borrowing from each other.

On Jul.27.2004 at 11:27 AM
Greg’s comment is:

The C2 can design wins of the two, but I also see C2 as heavier than regular old Fat Coke. Or worse, as a rename of the horrendous New Coke thing from the 80's. And also, I like Coca-Cola's logo better than Pepsi's, even though I like Pepsi's taste better. I miss the 80's Pepsi cans. They were cool. The best overall soft drink design award (of those I can immediately recall) goes to Jones Soda Co., however.

I hadn't really noticed the "growing serifs" on the Pepsi logo, but that's definately a growth they should have looked at.

On Jul.27.2004 at 11:40 AM
Matt S.’s comment is:

.sara’s comment is:

I don't care for the C2 can in the least. The "C2" itself only brings T2 to mind.

Not to mention that the silvery "C2" is sitting on top of an oddly fleshy backdrop, which brings to mind muscle fibers or a skinned animal. metal on flesh, how android ;)

Either that or its Freddy Kreugers face. The C2 can definitely doesnt look like an everyday product. It looks to me more like a special edition can whose release coincides with Halloween, or a blockbuster movie.

On Jul.27.2004 at 12:14 PM
Jason’s comment is:

It looks to me more like a special edition can whose release coincides with Halloween, or a blockbuster movie.

This couldn't be closer to the truth. Coke's always had a way with going over the top, while Pepsi seems rather calculated in comparison. That New Coke thing misfired. I couldn't even find it on Coke's website. All the links to it from search engines are dead URLs.

I'm interested in how Greg likes Coke's logo better than Pepsi's, and likes Pepsi's taste better. Oddly, most of my friends feel the same. They're brand loyalty resides with Coke, they prefer its image; but they'd much rather drink a Pepsi when given the choice because it tastes better. Peculiar. Perhaps Pepsi needs to revisit their brand image and attributes, or start stealing from Coke.

On Jul.27.2004 at 12:26 PM
Miriam Frost’s comment is:

They're all hideous. I wish I had a beard, I'd shave it with Pepsi Edge.

On Jul.27.2004 at 01:00 PM
Tan’s comment is:

Soda branding is serious money these days. No one has fun w/ them anymore.

To me, C2 is like the nicotene patch. For those of us who are addicted to Coke, like me, 1/2 the carbs slows the damage to our bodies while we try to kick the habit. That brand difference/benefit alone will sell the product — no matter what the damn can looks like.

I just don't understand why C2 is a higher pricepoint than regular Coke. It's the one fault of the strategy I think.

I like Jones Soda, but it's wearing a little thin on me. It was fine when the soda first appeared on the market. It was different, it was rogue, it was guerilla marketing. But now, eh — it's not so special anymore. You see it everywhere, and the personalized photos are getting trite. The public has caught up, and it's time for them to move on and evolve.

I'll tell you where to find cool soda packaging — go to an Asian market. Here in Seattle, there's a big Japanese supermarket call Uwajimaya. They sell a hundred varieties of Asian sodas, teas, and other funky beverages. The form factors and packaging are completely different in voice and approach than Western brands like Coke and Fanta. There's still genuine wit and design in much of that packaging. I have a little collection amassed in my office — God knows what some of those drinks taste like though.

On Jul.27.2004 at 01:39 PM
Pat Gibson’s comment is:

Greg--I'm with you about C2 looking "heavier" than you would normally assume to pair a half calorie beverage with. I bet that this result comes from the marketing...: Coke wanted this to get the attention of people with active lifestyles--in other words, 18-30 somethings who are most likely to want to weight less... and thus they styled the C2 Coke as something that isn't less, but actually more (!), reflecting the fast-paced, consumer lifestyle that they supposedly want to identify themselves with.

This is almost like reverse psychology. Of course, I am merely guessing that the above is how Coke, and probably Pepsi too, came to their designs. Otherwise I'd say it's just an improper message.

If I were the director of the new cans, I'd ask my team: "How can we make this look light and intense?"

On Jul.27.2004 at 08:52 PM
Pat Gibson’s comment is:

Responding to what Jason said about the two logomarks looking the same...:

I heard that a while ago Pepsi discovered that they were loosing their market share to Coke. Thus, they aligned their identity closely with Coke's, bringing about that script style Pepsi mark, which looks nostalgic the way Coca-cola's does.

On Jul.27.2004 at 08:57 PM
Jason’s comment is:

I'm not sure how old that Pepsi cap was. I'm guessing around the 50s or 60s.

On Jul.27.2004 at 11:45 PM
Jason’s comment is:

God, what happened here?

On Jul.28.2004 at 12:43 AM
Ravenone’s comment is:

Jason- Pepsi Blue scares me. I've rarely gotten sick from drinks but there's something in pepsi blue (and most obscure colored drinks) that makes me sick- litterally.

I do remember thinking the Pepsi Blue Logo looked like it should've been on a beer can. It didn't help that the local store kept it ...right between Beer and the rest of the Sodas.

On Jul.28.2004 at 09:27 AM
Rob ’s comment is:

Jason, that looks like Pepsi met Harley-Davidson.

Anyhow, what I found most distrubing about C2 was it just seemed overwhelmingly dark. And while I understand visually, that they were trying to capture the middle ground between Original Coke and Diet Coke, it just seems that they missed the mark.

In my grocery store C2 is placed on the shelf right above Original Coke. I haven't read the research that I'm sure Coca-Cola did to lead to that placement, but as a drinker of Coke, I'm not in the market for C2, nor would I consider it as a replacement for Coke. If was me, I would have tried to have place in between Coke and DIet Coke. But that's just me.

On Jul.28.2004 at 09:30 AM
jason the lowercase’s comment is:

tan, it would be interesting to check the sugar content of those asian soft drinks. it is common to use stevia, an herb, as a natural sweetner especially in japan. it has no calories with much more sweetness (as does licorice root). chewing on a stevia leaf is a pleasure.

it is banned in food in most of the western world for very questionable reasons.

On Jul.28.2004 at 02:49 PM
Jason’s comment is:

What are those questionable reasons for our food producers holding out on those additives? Do they stimulate cancer cells or boost libido? Or is this the High Fructose Corn Syrup Giants trying to maintain a monopoly in the US?

On Jul.30.2004 at 01:13 AM