Friday, September 13, 2002

Okay, I admit I'm fascinated by THIS STUDY on regional differences in what to call carbonated beverages. Both ABC and MSNBC have reported this story. Typically, the eastern U.S and California use the term "soda," while most of the Midwest uses the term "pop." Remarkably within the "pop" Midwest, the map shows pockets of "soda" usage centered on the cities of St. Louis and Milwaukee. Maybe it has something to do with beer or Germans.

Having grown up in Milwaukee and adopted the term "soda," I can recall a few conversation at the University of Wisconsin in Madison with students from dink northern Wisconsin towns who insisted on using the term "pop." It seemed strange, but probably no stranger than me using the Milwaukee regional term "bubbler" instead of "drinking fountain" for public drinking water dispensers.

As a professional marketer, the most fascinating part of this story is the use of the term "Coke" in the American south to describe all carbonated beverages. This is undesirable to Coca-Cola because it weakens the brand name. A business can lose its trademark protection if a brand name becomes common usage such as aspirin. Powerful brands such as Kleenex and Xerox go out of their way to include the generic product terms of "facial tissues" and "copiers" in their advertisements to protect their brands. In the past, Coca-Cola has actively threatened to sue restaurants and businesses that serve Pepsi when a customer ordered a "Coke." This is why when you order a "Coke" in a restaurant that serves PepsiCo products, the server is supposed to ask, "Is Pepsi okay?"

THE AGITATOR and CUT ON THE BIAS have also weighed in with opinions on this.