Why Pepsi Ditched Its 'The Choice Of A New Generation' Slogan

If you want to sell anything in this world, you need a good slogan. It should be short and catchy, appealing to our proclivity for snap judgments. Think of McDonald's "I'm lovin' it," which has been going strong for two decades, or Mazda's "Zoom-zoom," which seems like it came straight from the mind of a child playing with Hot Wheels. Not every catchphrase can be a hit though, and there have been some truly terrible food slogans throughout history (Long John Silver's, what does "We speak fish" even mean?).

Even the best slogans can change at a moment's notice as companies evolve, chase trends, and target new generations. No two brands better encapsulate this fact than Coca-Cola and Pepsi. Despite being the top two soft drink brands in the country, both Coke and Pepsi have tried dozens of taglines throughout the years with mixed success. Consider the early '80s slogan "Coke Is It!" It sure did fit the decade, but not for the reason the brand intended.

Pepsi might be second to Coke in sales, but it wins in the department of bizarre slogans, the most cringeworthy of which has to be 2006's "Why You Doggin' Me?" Why indeed. Pepsi has never stuck to a slogan for more than a couple of years, with one notable exception. "The Choice of a New Generation" was their tagline from 1984-88 and again from 1990-91. However, don't expect Pepsi to bring it back for a third time.

Pepsi forgot to renew their trademark

What made "The Choice of a New Generation" so powerful wasn't just the words themselves, it was the context they were used in. During that initial 1984-88 run, Pepsi went all-out on commercials. The ad campaign featured some of the biggest names in '80s entertainment, including David Bowie, Lionel Richie, Tina Turner, Gloria Estefan, and Michael J. Fox. But the real cream of the crop was the ad that launched the New Generation era.

It featured Michael Jackson, one year removed from the release of "Thriller," the best-selling album of all time, singing a revised version of "Billie Jean," the chorus of which went like so: "You're the Pepsi generation. Guzzle down and taste the thrill of the day, and feel the Pepsi way." One of the biggest pop stars of all time, at the height of his fame, reworking one of his most famous songs? It seemed like it couldn't get better than that, and — spoiler alert — it didn't.

In 1989, Pepsi took a gamble on a new slogan: "A Generation Ahead," but the next year, they went back to "The Choice of a New Generation." They dropped it again in 1991 in favor of "Gotta Have It," and it turns out that would be the last time they ever used the phrase. In 2006, PepsiCo's trademark on "The Choice of a New Generation" expired, and nobody thought to renew it. But surely they can file for the trademark again. It's not like another company would take it... right?

The... oatmeal of a new generation?

In 2009, a new trademark was placed on "The Choice of a New Generation," but this time, it wasn't for soda. It was for oatmeal. Better Oats is about as far from Pepsi as any brand could be. The company is quite successful today, and one of Daily Meal's top ten instant oatmeal brands, but it had humble beginnings. As reported by Business Insider, Better Oats' first ad campaign, unveiled in 2010, was produced without the aid of an ad agency, and with a budget of just $150,000. Whereas Pepsi rolled out the red carpet for the King of Pop, Better Oats' ad was a relatively understated video fit for the World Wide Web created by a filmmaker named Josh Anderson.

How did a small oatmeal startup manage to scoop up one of the most iconic soft drink slogans right under the nose of its former owner? As it turns out, they had a man on the inside. Better Oats was originally owned by MOM Brands (formerly known as Malt-O-Meal), whose CEO at the time was a former marketer at PepsiCo/Frito Lay. Interestingly enough, PepsiCo is a direct competitor of Better Oats, being the parent brand of Quaker Oats. In the years since, Pepsi has tried a number of new slogans, but none of them are quite as catchy. The most notable, "Live for Now," is famous not for its endearing nature but for a disastrous 2017 ad featuring Kendall Jenner.