If you’re a big shot, you don’t need to advertise your USP.
Take Coca-Cola, for example. In the 1970s and early 1980s, Pepsi set up booths in malls, shopping centers, sporting events, carnivals, and fairs where people could take the Pepsi Challenge.
Pepsi advertised the results, that an overwhelming majority of people chose Pepsi over Coke.
I’ve heard that they pulled a trick on the participants. You see, Pepsi was a sweeter cola, while Coke had a distinctive palette of flavors.
The Challenge ambassador would have participants try Pepsi first. I’m sure you know what happens when you taste something that’s sugary sweet and then follow on with something not as sweet. Heck, even fresh fruit doesn’t taste as good right after a candy snack.
So with the tastebuds all set up with a sugar shack, the taste of Coke is overpowering. So the participants picked Pepsi.
By the way, I took the Pepsi Challenge and chose Coke.
If you have a full head of hair that’s not gray, you may not remember Coke’s marketing move in 1985. They released New Coke, which had the sugar-water taste of Pepsi. Coke enthusiasts were outraged.
They didn’t introduce it alongside the original Coke — they flat-out replaced it!
It wasn’t long before Coca-Cola put the original formula back on the market, this time they called it “Coke Classic.”
I don’t think this was a screw-up on the part of the Coca-Cola marketing department. I think it was a well-thought-out plot to stir the pot.
You see, taking the well-established Coke product off the market made Coke drinkers want it more. This is the principle of scarcity.
You can learn more about scarcity in Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini. In a nutshell, the scarcity principle is this: the rarer a thing is, the more people want it.
Did you know the diamond industry limits mining production precisely to keep the cost of diamonds high? Diamonds are expensive because high-quality gems are rare.
In the late 1980s, we saw this when Christmas shoppers had a hard time finding Cabbage Patch Kids dolls in the stores. I saw a TV news story that people were paying over a hundred dollars for a Cabbage Patch Kids doll.
A hundred bucks isn’t exactly chump change nowadays, but it was worth more in the 1980s.
Then in the late 1990s, TY Beanie Babies were in short supply for the Christmas shopping season. And once again, people were willing to pay big bucks for them.
So, you see, Coke had a plan all along. I don’t know of any interview or news story that has anyone in Coca-Cola’s marketing team admitting to it. Neither have I heard of anyone getting fired over the New Coke idea.