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Perspective: Soda Brand Redesigns Reflect a Cultural Shift

In the pantheon of big brands that have made indelible visual imprints on the national consciousness, Coke and Pepsi have to rank at or near the top. Evolution of their look and design both anticipates and reflects larger cultural changes.

Before and after Pepsi's recent redesign
Before and after Pepsi's recent redesign

I’m old enough (just barely) to remember the cola wars of the 1980s and the arms race that spawned the likes of New Coke, Pepsi Clear, and a host of other evolutionary dead ends. Maybe that’s why it caught my attention when a flurry of soda brands—the flagship Pepsi soda brand itself alongside several other PepsiCo and Coca-Cola Company brands—recently unveiled new visual identities and logos. In isolation, these redesigns wouldn’t be unusual. What struck me was the cluster of them in spring 2023, with Fanta and 7UP joining Pepsi in changing their respective brand livery (click here for more details on those changes). This recent string of design updates comes on the heels of Coca-Cola and Sprite both adopting black script logos on-pack to signify Zero Sugar, and Sprite switching to clear bottles, at the end of 2022.

Was this spate of facelifts just a coincidence, or was there some sort of invisible hand behind it? I asked this question of Daryl Weber, brand strategy consultant with brand agency Major7, Coca-Cola Company alumnus, and author of the 2016 book “Brand Seduction.”

“I think there is a cluster of change happening right now,” he says. “My hunch is that these things do generally come in waves because they are both reflecting culture, and leading culture. A brand’s positioning and its ads are usually a reflection of the aspirations of people at a moment in time. As the culture shifts, brands will try to evolve to keep up with those changing dynamics.”

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