|Pepsi Max promises max masculinity, here symbolized by|
three phallic bottles.
The first time I heard about Pepsi Max was back in 1993. I saw some ads promising "Maximum Taste. No sugar." I remember my first reaction was: Why on earth would someone drink a cola drink that is not sweet?
When I did taste it, in France I believe, I realized it was just another no-calorie soft drink with an artificial sweetener.
It tasted more or less the same as Pepsi Light (Diet Pepsi for Anglo Saxon readers). For all practical purposes it seemed PepsiCo had launched the same drink with a different label.
Defined by the symbols, not the content
I was wrong. The drink might have been the same on the inside, but it was very different on the outside. The cans and bottles were black, they were masculine and they had the word MAX written on them in glowing, testosterone-boosting, lettering.
Indeed, the advertising gave the same message. This was a calorie free "hard drink" for real men who would not be caught dead with something white and girlie.
It took a loooong time, but Coca Cola eventually got the message, launching Coca Cola Zero in 2005. The cola expert would probably be able to taste the difference between Coca Cola Light/Diet Coke and Coke Zero (given that the two contained different artificial sweeteners in some countries), but most people would find it hard to pass a blind test, in spite of constantly changing formulas.