In Which I Compare Our Political System and Centrist Third Party Wankers to a Ridiculously Oversimplified Cola War
Imagine an America where Coke and Pepsi are the only two soft drinks available. There are a few regional niche brands like Moxie, but they have so little marketing clout that they’re almost impossible to find. If you want a soft drink, you pretty much have to choose between the red one or the blue one. Not only that, but over time the cola syrup base they both use has become increasingly corrupted, and both sodas now have an aftertaste like petroleum and rotting meat.
It’s gotten so bad over the last five or six years that most people now find both sodas almost undrinkable. The only exceptions are the diehards so loyal to their brand that they ignore the aftertaste (even mocking those who can’t), and the rich people who guzzle them in massive enough quantities to keep both companies afloat.
Unfortunately, in the absence of any competition, those of us who don’t like drinking medical waste can only choose from the various flavors of Coke and Pepsi – classic, diet, zero, lime, cherry, lemon, vanilla – desperately searching for the one that tastes the least nasty, and ending up disappointed every time. Some of us just give up and drink nothing but water and/or alcohol.
Along comes a third-party consortium (or three), which perceives a golden marketing opportunity: American consumers have realized that Coke and Pepsi are both vile, and they’re thirsty for an alternative. But instead of acknowledging that people are turned off by the taint of corruption, the consortium proclaims that the problem is that Pepsi is too sweet, and Coke isn’t sweet enough.
Their solution: Sell a brand-new cola which also tastes like motor oil and dead fish, but is sweeter than Coke and less sweet than Pepsi.
In other words, the new consortium does a fantastic job of recognizing the huge under-served market of people who don’t like their soda to taste like death, but fails miserably at developing an appealing alternative to the established brands. Their success depends entirely on whether they can trick consumers into thinking that their dislike of Coke and Pepsi is based on sweetness rather than putrefaction.
Now, if the consortium were to instead offer a soft drink that was not a cola, or at least a cola based on a non-disgusting syrup, they could give Coke and Pepsi a run for their money. But, as it happens, the consortium is largely backed by people in the rancid cola syrup business, so obviously that can never happen.
Worse yet, the rancid syrup industry has a stranglehold on America’s syrup infrastructure, while Coke and Pepsi control the soft drink distribution channels, and have virtually unlimited corporate resources and marketing budgets. On the other hand, their products are so terrible that a truly delicious soft drink could threaten their dominance even without the same institutional advantages. It just needs enough people to get a taste.