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Pepsi is a carbonated soft drink produced and manufactured by PepsiCo. Originally created and developed in 1893 and introduced as Brad's Drink, it was renamed as Pepsi-Cola on August 28, 1898, and then as Pepsi in 1961. It is currently known in North America alternatively as Pepsi-Cola as of 2014.
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Walter Mack was named the new President of Pepsi-Cola and guided the company through the 1940s. Mack, who supported progressive causes, noticed that the company's strategy of using advertising for a general audience either ignored African Americans or used ethnic stereotypes in portraying blacks. Up until the 1940s, the full revenue potential of what was called "the Negro market" was largely ignored by white-owned manufacturers in the U.S. Mack realised African Americans were an untapped niche market and that Pepsi stood to gain market share by targeting its advertising directly towards them. To this end, he hired Hennan Smith, an advertising executive "from the Negro newspaper field" to lead an all-black sales team, which had to be cut due to the onset of World War II.
In 1947, Walter Mack resumed his efforts, hiring Edward F. Boyd to lead a twelve-man team. They came up with advertising portraying black Americans in a positive light, such as one with a smiling mother holding a six pack of Pepsi while her son (a young Ron Brown, who grew up to be Secretary of Commerce) reaches up for one. Another ad campaign, titled "Leaders in Their Fields", profiled twenty prominent African Americans such as Nobel Peace Prize winner Ralph Bunche and photographer Gordon Parks.
Boyd also led a sales team composed entirely of blacks around the country to promote Pepsi. Racial segregation and Jim Crow laws were still in place throughout much of the U.S.; Boyd's team faced a great deal of discrimination as a result, from insults by Pepsi co-workers to threats by the Ku Klux Klan. On the other hand, it was able to use racism as a selling point, attacking Coke's reluctance to hire blacks and support by the chairman of Coke for segregationist Governor of Georgia Herman Talmadge. As a result, Pepsi's market share as compared to Coke's shot up dramatically in the 1950s with African American soft-drink consumers three times more likely to purchase Pepsi over Coke. After the sales team visited Chicago, Pepsi's share in the city overtook that of Coke for the first time.
The team members had a grueling schedule, working seven days a week, morning and night, for weeks on end. They visited bottlers, churches, "ladies groups," schools, college campuses, YMCAs, community centers, insurance conventions, teacher and doctor conferences, and various civic organizations. They got famous jazzmen such as Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton to give shout-outs for Pepsi from the stage. No group was too small or too large to target for a promotion.
Pepsi advertisements avoided the stereotypical images common in the major media that depicted one-dimensional Aunt Jemimas and Uncle Bens whose role was to draw a smile from white customers. Instead it portrayed black customers as self-confident middle-class citizens who showed very good taste in their soft drinks. They were economical too, as Pepsi bottles were twice the size.
This focus on the market for black people caused some consternation within the company and among its affiliates. It did not want to seem focused on black customers for fear white customers would be pushed away. In a national meeting Mack tried to assuage the 500 bottlers in attendance by pandering to them, saying: "We don't want it to become known as a nigger drink." After Mack left the company in 1950, support for the black sales team faded and it was cut.