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Democrat Coke vs. Republican Pepsi? 20 Intriguing Images

By    |   Thursday, 30 January 2014 08:03 PM

As Eben Shapiro wrote in The New York Times of Nov. 1, 1992: “According to beverage industry lore, the Coca-Coca Company prospers under Democratic administrations, while PepsiCo thrives under the GOP.” Or, as Kurt Eichenwald noted in the July 16, 1985, edition, “As with political parties, there are only two major players: Coca-Cola, the drink of Democrats, and Pepsi-Cola, the Republicans’ refresher. Sure there are third-party colas, but as in politics not much is said about them.”

In reality, the truth is not quite that simple.

Coca-Cola and Pepsi began their advertising war in the 1930s.

Pepsi debuted skywriting as an advertising tool at the 1939 New York World’s Fair, but the rivalry between the two truly escalated with the onset of World War II when Coca-Cola President Robert W. Woodruff ordered a special group of 148 Coca-Cola employees in the U.S. military to somehow deliver Cokes to every G.I. “for five cents, wherever he is, and whatever it costs the company.” More than 5 billion servings of Coke would be distributed to wartime U.S. troops.

Thus began one of the greatest brand competitions in history, one that affected American politics as much as world consumerism.


1. Woodruff and Farley Take Coke Global




Coca-Cola President Robert Woodruff (seen above left, in 1944) executed a master stroke in 1941 when he hired as Chairman of the Board of the Coca-Cola Export Corporation James A. Farley (above right, in 1945), the organizational genius of the Democratic Party who had piloted Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s first two successful presidential election campaigns. Farley, a roving ambassador of good will, was the man to make Coke a global brand.

At the first opportunity, Farley spent three months touring the world, conferring as much with heads of state as he did with the world community of Coca-Cola bottlers. His prominent layman Catholic background came in handy when visiting Latin America, as well as the time he led four Coca-Cola executives to meet the Pope—supposedly prompting Communists to half-jokingly remark that there was a conspiracy afoot to replace sacramental wine with Coke.


2. Coca-Cola Goes to War




During World War II, Coca-Cola convinced the Roosevelt administration that Coke was vital to the war effort, and in 1942 it secured from the War Production Board an exclusive exemption from sugar rationing for Coke served to the military. Gen. George Marshall gave all area commanders the authority to set up soft drink bottling operations and request personnel to operate them. Moreover, Coke’s civilian military “Technical Observers” assembled and ran bottling plants near the battlefields. Entire Coke bottling plants were transported at the expense of the U.S. government.

At the outbreak of WWII, Coca-Cola had bottling plants in 44 countries on both sides of the conflict. According to authors William H. and Nancy K. Young, by the end of the war there were 108, which helped Coke dominate the postwar world market.


3. Pepsi Takes on the War — and Coca-Cola




Complaints of Coca-Cola’s favored wartime position were made by Pepsi-Cola’s president, Walter Mack, but they were ignored. So, Mack had the Pepsi-Cola Company buy a Cuban sugar plantation (which was later lost and nationalized when Castro took over Cuba), then built three large Pepsi-Cola Servicemen’s Centers in Washington D.C., San Francisco, and New York’s Times Square. These facilities dispensed free Pepsi along with providing free shaves, free showers and other services.

Mack would later hire former Coca-Cola executive Alfred Steele in 1949 (he became CEO and Chairman in 1955), under whose management sales tripled during the period 1955–1957.

Ironically, FDR’s son James secured a Pepsi franchise before the end of WWII, introducing Pepsi President Walter Mack to his father at the White House.


4. Eisenhower: Hunting and Golfing with Coke and Pepsi




In the photo above, President Dwight D. Eisenhower smiles as he sits in car with William Robinson, center and W. Alton Jones, his golfing partners in Scotland on Sept. 5, 1959. Robinson, chairman of the board of Coca Cola, and Jones, chairman of the board of Cities Service, flew to Scotland from New York to join the President at the Turnberry course at Ayr, Scotland. Window in car was partially open.

During World War II, then-Gen. Eisenhower first ordered Cokes dispensed to the G.I.'s, as he deemed soft drinks less troublesome than wine or beer for his North African soldiers. Moreover, Eisenhower requisitioned ten entire Coke bottling plants for the overseas troops.

After the war, Eisenhower and Coca-Cola President Woodruff became friends. Woodruff, ostensibly a Southern Democrat, backed Eisenhower's Republican Presidential candidacy. However, Woodruff disliked Vice-President Richard Nixon.

Pepsi President Walter Mack was a Republican fundraiser for the Presidential campaigns of Eisenhower, as well as those of Wendell Willkie and Thomas E. Dewey. In 1964 Mack also raised money for Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson’s campaign. (Pepsi CEO Donald Kendall was a friend of Richard Nixon and later became a trustee of the George H.W. Bush Foundation.)


5. Coke’s Innovative Vending Machines: From Nickels to Hugs




At left above, Vintage Coca-Cola vending machines are on display in the Coca-Cola exhibit inside the Crossroads Museum in Corinth, Mississippi on Jan. 10, 2013. At right above is a June 15, 2012 photo of an unconventional Coke machine in Singapore. Squeeze its sides and it will dispense a drink. The bizarre publicity stunt was part of the company's Open Happiness campaign, targeted at young people. Leonardo O'Grady, Coke's Asia Pacific Director, said, "Happiness is contagious. Our strategy is to deliver doses of happiness in an unexpected, innovative way to engage not only the people present, but the audience at large. The Coca Cola Hug Machine is a simple idea to spread some happiness."

From 1886 until the late 1950s, Coke was priced at 5 cents a bottle, and all of its vending machines accepted only single nickels. When inflation struck, the company, not wanting to raise the price to a dime, asked Eisenhower to create a 7.5 cent coin. Eisenhower, a hunting and golfing buddy of Coca-Cola executives, refused to do so and Coca-Cola was forced to develop a multi-coin machine. (Friendship has its limits.)


6. The (Almost) Kennedy Coca-Cola Empire




At left above is a June 3, 1984 photo of Joan Kennedy, former wife of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., shown with her son Patrick Joseph Kennedy (sipping a Coke), at Wesleyan University during commencement exercises in Middletown, Ct. At right is an Aug. 30, 1980 photo of the late John F. Kennedy Jr. on a Labor Day Weekend enjoying both the weather and a Coke.

Coca-Cola’s Robert Woodruff was said to be a personal friend of Kennedy family patriarch Joseph P. Kennedy. Mark Pendergrast, author of the book, “For God, Country, and Coca-Cola,” writes that in the early 1940s Joe. Kennedy negotiated with Woodruff about spending $5 million on Coke bottling plants: “’He has a number of sons,’ explained Archie Lee [creative director for the Coca-Cola account at the D'Arcy Advertising Agency]. The elder Kennedy wanted to lay the ‘foundation for jobs for them.’ The deal fell through, however, and the boys had to go into politics instead.”


7. “Tail Gunner Joe” Becomes “The Pepsi-Cola Kid”




Marine Lt. Joseph Raymond McCarthy, the future Communist subversive hunter, was a World War II intelligence officer stationed in the Solomon Islands who exaggerated his war record with claims of service as a tail gunner. Subsequently, as a senator from Wisconsin, he fought to reduce government regulation by ending wartime sugar rationing nearly six months ahead of schedule.

There was a problem, however. In his biography of the senator, author Richard Halworth Rovere writes of McCarthy acquaintance John Maragon, “a lobbyist for a lobbyist,” who worked for the Allied Molasses Company, a firm that violated U.S. rationing orders by somehow obtaining and refining 1.5 million gallons of sugar-cane syrup and selling it to the Pepsi-Cola Company. Maragon introduced McCarthy to Pepsi lobbyist and bottler Russell Arundel.

Author David M. Oshinsky (“A Conspiracy So Immense: The World of Joe McCarthy”) reveals that McCarthy was near personal bankruptcy and took out a loan. Russell Arundel endorsed a note for $20,000 to be used as collateral against the senator’s loan. Other senators and the media picked up on this, replacing one derisive McCarthy moniker, “Tail Gunner Joe,” with another, “The Pepsi-Cola Kid.”

Actually, as author Arthur Herman argues in the book, “Joseph McCarthy: Reexamining the Life and Legacy of America’s Most Hated Senator,” McCarthy acted in the interest not of the soft drink companies but Wisconsin sugar beet growers, and the bottler, Russell Arundel, actually opposed sugar deregulation because he used rationing to pad his costs. "McCarthy’s dealings with Pepsi were perfectly legal and open," writes Herman.

Even more ironically, as Oshinsky notes, Wisconsin’s Appleton State Bank eventually rejected Arundel’s note, arguing that he had few liquid assets. McCarthy had to cover his debts by persuading his office manager, Ray Kiermas, to dip into his own savings account.


8. Doesn’t Pepsi Taste Better than Vodka, Mr. Khrushchev?




The 1959 photo above was taken at the American National Exhibition, Moscow, USSR. Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev samples a cup of Pepsi-Cola while intently watched by U.S. Vice-President Richard Nixon. At left, Pepsi-Cola Chairman Donald M Kendall also pours himself a cup.

After his presidential defeat in 1960 and California defeat by Gov. Pat Brown in 1962, Nixon needed a lucrative job as an attorney that would afford him time for politics. Pepsi’s Don Kendall offered to let him handle the Pepsi account. Another friend, Warner-Lambert Pharmaceutical Corp President Elmer Bobst, arranged a deal with his own law firm, Mudge, Stern, Baldwin and Todd to hire Nixon as a full partner at $250,000 a year, with time off for politicking.

Later, in 1972, after Nixon had become President, PepsiCo wrangled an exclusive franchise to sell Pepsi to 200 million Russians. Additionally, Warner-Lambert’s application for a merger with Parke-Davis, originally turned down by the Justice Dept.’s antitrust division, was approved by former Nixon law partner Atty. Gen. John Mitchell.


9. Nixon and Pepsi Pals, 1963




In the photo above we see the President of Pepsi-Cola, Donald M. Kendall, left, on his way to see football game at Yankee Stadium with Richard M. Nixon, Nov.1, 1963.

An interesting historical coincidence: Nixon arrived in Dallas, Texas on Nov. 20, 1963 to deliver a speech to Pepsi-Cola stockholders. The next day—three weeks after the above photo was taken—there was a Pepsi-Cola convention and board meeting in Dallas attended by Richard Nixon and Donald Kendall (both men were photographed and appeared on the front page of The Dallas Times Herald), along with actress Joan Crawford, wife of deceased Pepsi executive Al Steele, who was on the board of directors. (Crawford often referred to Kendall not-so-affectionately as “Fang.”) The next day, Nixon flew from Dallas to New York, arriving shortly after Lee Harvey Oswald shot President Kennedy from the Texas School Book Depository at Dallas’ Dealey Plaza.


10. First Coke in China, 1979




As seen above, during the Democratic Carter Administration the first shipment of Coca-Cola to China was loaded in Hong Kong, Tuesday, Jan. 23, 1979 and was in major Chinese cities for that weekend's Chinese New Year celebrations. The 280,000 bottles and cans are shown being transferred from trucks to a China-bound train that was to leave early the next day, Wednesday. In China, the American soft drink is known as "Tastes Good, Tastes Happy."


11. George H. W. Bush Toasts Pepsi’s First China Plant, 1985




In the photo above, U.S. Vice President George Bush toasts in Pepsi- Cola with He Yao, chairman of the first Pepsi plant in China, Oct. 18, 1985 while touring the factory in the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone.


12. The Rise and Fall of New Coke




In the image above, Robert C. Goizueta, Coca-Cola’s chairman of the board and CEO, left, and Donald R. Keough, President and COO, right, toast the New Coke after press presentation in Lincoln Center, New York City, on April 23, 1985.

Whereas the Pepsi-Cola Company in the 1950s reduced its cola’s sweetness to taste more like Coke, the Coca-Cola Company in the 1980s sweetened its cola to taste more like Pepsi, which was gaining market share. The resulting New Coke, “the Edsel of the 1980s,” was rejected by the public. The original formula, now dubbed “Coca-Cola Classic,” returned to store shelves just 79 days later.

Fortunately, all the hubbub boosted interest in Coca-Cola and it regained its lost market share. Also, Pepsi’s investments in Pizza Hut, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Taco Bell may have spurred the 1990 decision by the competing chains of Wendy’s and Burger King to switch their soda fountain accounts to Coca-Cola.


13. The Other Vietnam War




In the top of the above three images, a young woman sits looking out from her soft drink shop which is equipped with two promotional refrigerators from rivals Coca-Cola and Pepsi, June 3, 2000, in Hanoi. By this time the Vietnamese had become familiar with promotional campaigns launched almost every month by foreign manufacturers at local markets.

In the middle image above, a man counts hats made of used Coke and Pepsi cans before delivering them to sell in Ho Chi Minh City on Sept. 21, 1999. Some family workshops in the city were making hats and toys such as helicopters and tanks from empty soft-drink cans to sell to foreign tourists.

In the bottom image, a deliveryman pushes a cart filled with Coca-Cola and Pepsi along a street in Ho Chi Minh City, March 22, 2005.


14. The Clintons Toast Coca-Cola in Russia, 1995




In the top image above, President Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton drink Coca-Cola at Moscow's Coca-Cola refreshments plant, May 11, 1995. The sign in the background reads “Coca-Cola” in Russian.

In the bottom photo above, a toast is made by Bill and Hillary Clinton and the head of the Coca-Cola Company's business in Russia, Michael O'Neil, as they hold Coca-Cola bottles at the plant.


15. Venezuela’s Pepsi Cataclysm of 1996




Venezuela was Pepsi's sixth biggest national market, with sales of about four million cases a month worth $350 million a year. It was one of the few markets where Pepsi had a larger market share than Coke, outselling it four to one. Then, bottler Raul Escalona Oswaldo Cisneros, seen in the Aug. 21, 1996 photo above, dumped Pepsi, defecting to bottle Coke instead, thus leaving Pepsi temporarily unable to produce, bottle, distribute or sell a drop of the their cola in Venezuela.

The Venezuelan government’s Superintendency for the Promotion and Protection of Free Competition found the Coke-Cisneros alliance to be in violation of Venezuelan merger statutes and fined them the equivalent of U.S. $2 million, but did not attempt to dissolve the alliance.

16. Bush & Cheney at the Pepsi 400 NASCAR Race




In the top photo above, then-Republican presidential candidate Texas Gov. George W. Bush poses with Pepsi-Cola spokesmodel Hallie Eisenberg before the start of the Pepsi 400 NASCAR race Saturday night, July 1, 2000, at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. Bush served as grand Marshall for the race.

In the lower photo above, U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, center, addresses the audience during his visit to the Pepsi 400 auto race in Daytona Beach, Saturday, July 1, 2006.


17. Putin Praises Pepsi




President Vladimir Putin, right, hands over an Order of Friendship to PepsiCo co-founder Donald Kendall in the Moscow Kremlin, June 21, 2004. The award went to Kendall for his great contribution to relations between the peoples in Russia and the United States, Putin said. Kendall, an old friend of Richard Nixon, was chairman of PepsiCo when in 1972 the company negotiated for its main soft drink, Pepsi-Cola, to be the first foreign consumer product sold in the Soviet Union.


18. Pepsi Promotions Push the Envelope




Advertising one-upmanship among the big soda makers sometimes goes over the top. In the top photo above, workers disassemble a huge 80-ton sphere advertising Pepsi in Caracas, Venezuela, June 7, 2010. The sphere was retired by order of the town hall which considered it hazardous to passers-by, a move that was qualified by Pepsi as “arbitrary.”

In the lower photo from April 2, 1996, the supersonic airliner, Concorde, sits in an aircraft hangar at Gatwick Airport, south of London after being given a new coat of paint, courtesy of PepsiCo. The soft drinks giant was relaunching its soft drink in blue cans with a $500 million advertising campaign involving supermodels, sports stars, the Concorde painted in Pepsi's then-new color and an issue of a British daily newspaper printed on light blue newsprint. Pepsi was attempting to capture a greater share of the teen market in Europe, the Middle East and Asia.


19. Newt Gingrich Pauses for a Pepsi, 2012




Richard Blyth looked pretty happy to serve Republican presidential candidate and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich a fountain Pepsi on Tuesday, April 10, 2012 when he stopped at The Birthplace of Pepsi, located in historic New Bern, North Carolina, the actual site where Pepsi-Cola was first invented by Caleb Bradham in his pharmacy in 1898. Gingrich was in New Bern to speak to a GOP fundraiser at the Chelsea Restaurant. (AP Photo/Sun Journal, Chuck Beckley)


20. Coke Still #1, Still Has a Secret Recipe




In the top photo above, taken Aug. 9, 2013, Marilyn Buamah, a secret formula security officer, stands outside the vault containing the secret recipe for Coca-Cola while waiting for a tour group at the World of Coca-Cola museum, in Atlanta. In the middle photo, visitors and tour groups walk just outside the open vault of the exhibit containing the recipe. The 127-year-old recipe for Coke sits inside an imposing steel vault (lower photo above) bathed in colorful lights, while security cameras monitor the area to make sure the fizzy formula stays a secret.

Through it all, despite any real or imagined political alliances, Coca-Cola, invented by John Pemberton in 1886, retains its title as the World’s Number One selling soft drink. Indeed, “Coke” vies with “okay” as the best-known word on Earth.


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