Pepsi logo history starts in 1893 in a drugstore in North Carolina, where owner Caleb Bradham decided to start bottling a drink of his own invention, which he originally named ‘Brad’s Drink.’
The cola-flavored beverage was advertised as a strength enhancer and a cure for indigestion or dyspepsia. Thanks to his fortunate business intuition, this unknown pharmacist laid the foundations of an empire that, still today, is second only to Coca-Cola. He did it by proposing a cola drink, which was popular at the time, but also by skillfully adapting his brand’s identity to the temperature of the time and never being afraid of change. Let’s see how it all started.
1989: Pepsi Original Logo
It was in 1898 when Caleb decided to change the name of his product from Brad’s Drink to Pepsi-Cola, making a clear reference to the indigestion-aid properties of its formula.
This is when the first Pepsi logo was introduced.
Coca-Cola, which was already a sensation, inspired the old Pepsi logo. It featured a similar aesthetic: a red script font where a swirl connected the ‘P’ and the ‘C’, creating a dynamic red wave, while the spiky serif letters with uneven kerning added an energetic feel. Exhilarating, Invigorating, Aids Digestion – this tagline accompanied the logo and carried on for many decades, serving as a reminder of Pepsi’s medicinal origins.
A this time, the success of Pepsi was truly remarkable. By 1905, the production had expanded across the US, the brand was trademarked, and the profits were significant, proving the strength of its identity.
The original Pepsi logo went through three additional iterations between its inception and the first serious identity change in the 1950s: one in 1905, another in 1906, and the last in 1930.
The design of the letters progressively softened, smoothing edges to go towards a more fluid and impactful feel for the logo. Throughout these decades, the company maintained its classic serif lettering, gradually moving towards a thinner and more appealing version of the logo over time.
These frequent changes highlight Pepsi’s commitment to staying relevant, one of the company’s biggest strengths since its early days. Despite the business declining during the 1920s and 1930s — a period marked by two bankruptcies and numerous challenges — the company persevered.
1950s: the Bottle Cap Logo
In the 1950s, Pepsi decided to revamp its logo, introducing an aesthetic that would become a core part of Americana. The new Pepsi logo emulated a blue bottle cap, split into three color bands – red at the top, white in the center, and blue at the bottom. The brand name ‘Pepsi-Cola’ in the usual serif, wavy lettering was prominently displayed in red against the white stripe.
This fresh look was a nod to the optimism of the post-war era. The use of red, white, and especially blue – the bold colors of the American flag – was a very clever move, lighting up the strong sense of patriotism of those years.
This patriotic rebrand was designed to resonate with a nation experiencing a resurgence of prosperity and optimism in the post-war era. Today, this ‘bottle cap’ logo is widely recognized as one of Pepsi’s most iconic and successful visual identities.
The bottle cap logo stayed until the hugely famous Globe was introduced in 1973. It went through only one, very interesting iteration in 1962, when it was presented in a frontal view, and a sans-serif lettering introduced Pepsi (dropping Cola) for the first time.
The 70s: the Globe is Born
In 1973, Pepsi introduced a new design element that would become its signature: the Globe. It was a circle split into two wavy sections – red up top, blue down below, with a curvy white line in the middle, giving a nod to the stripes of the old bottle cap design.
Solid red and blue showed up in the background, adding more color to the logo than ever before. The Pepsi lettering stayed the same sans serif, while ‘Cola’ was gone for good.
Around the same time, Pepsi launched one of its biggest marketing campaigns ever: the Pepsi Challenge. This was a blind taste test served up to people in shopping malls and supermarkets, designed to prove that they actually liked Pepsi better than Coca-Cola. This fantastic campaign led Pepsi to outsell its unsurpassed competitor in supermarket sales. But as we know, the race was not over.
Coca-Cola, not one to be easily beaten, in 1985 revamped their recipe and presented the world with New Coke, which was one of the biggest missteps in the history of soft drinks (but that’s another story..). After experiencing a strong consumer backlash, Coca-Cola reintroduced the original recipe under the name Coke Classic, and New Coke slowly faded into the background. Unexpectedly, Coca-Cola had reminded everyone why they loved the original recipe so much, and soon the red can was to be number one again.
Interestingly, the Cola Wars revealed a difference in attitude that still stands today. Coca-Cola is the classic cola, endorsed by timeless figures like Santa Claus. On the other hand, Pepsi, endorsed by modern icons like Michael Jackson and Michael J. Fox, projected a fresh, contemporary image. There was no need for Pepsi to dramatically alter its recipe; it already resonated with the tastes of the younger generation.
1987: a Futuristic Custom Font
In 1987, Pepsi decided to break away from the ordinary and introduced a unique, futuristic font to its brand image.
Since 1962, they had been using a simple, all-capital sans serif typeface. The new typeface, however, carried a sense of the future – the letters were still bold and sans serif, but had an almost digital aesthetic.
The left-side angles of the ‘E’ were softened and rounded, and the ‘S’ was stretched, becoming flatter and subtly hinting at the ‘S’ in the Star Wars logo, showcasing Pepsi’s commitment to innovation and modernity.
Changes weren’t just limited to the font. The white circle of the Globe design became thicker, and the red color shifted towards a more violet hue. Despite these changes, the logo maintained its unmistakable character.
Though Pepsi transitioned away from this logo in just a few years, this design made a memorable comeback in 2009 with the introduction of Pepsi Throwback with a hugely successful revival that demonstrated the timeless charisma of this iconic design.
1990s: Dynamic 3D Effects
In the 1990s, Pepsi was ready for one more change. The Globe got a style upgrade with 3D effects that made it look like it was popping off the cans and bottles. The Pepsi name moved up and away from the Globe, and for the first time the lettering was not incorporated in the round design.
The font was pretty much the same as the 80s, carrying that successful futuristic vibe into the next decade.
At first the logo presented a red band next to the globe, but the backdrop changed again in the following iterations (1998, 2003, 2006), as Pepsi ditched the red stripe, which became a more dynamic gradient with blue hues, giving the whole logo a feel of energy and motion.
The new look was an emblem of the 90s and early 2000s, a time of optimism and a push towards the digital age. Pepsi was not just moving with the times; they were charging ahead, leading the way.
2008: A Million-Dollar Rebrand
In 2008, the Pepsi logo experienced yet another metamorphosis, marking one of its most substantial transformations in decades. Gone was the wavy white line that used to dissect the globe, replaced by a more abstract, gently curved, smile-like arc. This shift altered the dynamic between the red top half and the blue bottom half of the globe, creating a visual that suggested a smiling face.
As for the font, Pepsi decided to discard its custom typeface in favor of a minimalist, lower-case, sans-serif font. The background was also stripped down to a plain white, leaving the stylized globe as the central, unmissable element.
This redesign was carried out by Gerard Huerta at Arnell Group, with the intention of embracing the digital era with a fresh, friendly image, one that would look good on screens and mobile phones. Many customers and fellow designers heavily criticized the logo as lazy and too fashionable, but Pepsi stood by its choice (in which they had invested 1 million dollars).
2023: A Bold, Unapologetic Approach
In April 2023, marking its 125th anniversary, Pepsi unveiled a brand new logo, their first significant rebrand in 14 years. This design draws inspiration from the Pepsi logo history, integrating some of the most cherished design elements of the past.
The refreshed logo reintroduces the iconic globe, a cornerstone of the Pepsi brand since the 1950s, restoring it to the style prevalent in the late 80s and 90s. The lettering, now boldly capitalized in black, is cleverly repositioned back to the center of the globe, offering a dramatic contrast to earlier versions that were presented in white and blue.
This striking black color selection, which also encircles the globe logo, was made intentionally to underscore the brand’s focus on Pepsi Zero Sugar, a product variant traditionally associated with the color black. The decided color palette, juxtaposing the bold black against an electric blue, lends a contemporary twist to Pepsi’s classic color scheme.
With this rebrand, Pepsi does not only pay homage to its past but also anticipates the future. This significant transformation of the brand’s visual identity heralds another exciting chapter in the Pepsi narrative, as the company continues to innovate and adapt within the ever-evolving landscape of the beverage industry.
Not Only Logos: Famous Campaigns & Pepsi Generation
The term “Pepsi Generation” originated in the 1960s as part of a marketing campaign that was aimed at targeting younger people. The campaign was incredibly successful as it celebrated the spirit of youth, quickly becoming a cultural landmark.
Perhaps the most famous iteration of the “Pepsi Generation” campaign was in the 1980s when the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, was brought on board. The commercial, featuring Michael and his brothers performing a Pepsi version of Billie Jean, was a huge hit and elevated Pepsi’s status among younger consumers. The campaign’s impact was so huge that it not only popularized Pepsi but also left an indelible mark on pop culture. This period was defined by Pepsi’s strategy to associate their brand with music and entertainment, often signing on big-name celebrities to be part of their campaigns.
Pepsi kicked off countless successful campaigns over the years, making it difficult to mention them all. One significant collaboration that stands out is with Michael J. Fox. Not only did he become a recognizable face of the brand, but he also brought Pepsi into the popular Back to the Future films featuring a fictional “2015” futuristic version of the drink called Pepsi Perfect. The advertisements he starred in were influential and left a substantial impact at the time.
And let’s not forget the “Joy of Pepsi” campaign, which ran from 1999 to 2003. This campaign, featuring Britney Spears, was a massive hit – Britney’s Pepsi commercials aired during the Super Bowl (attention: Pepsi reproduced all of its old, vintage Pepsi logos in the ad), become one of the most memorable ads in the event’s history.
Pepsi also shook up the advertising world with its “Pepsi Stuff” campaign in the ’90s, rewarding loyal customers with merchandise through a points system. In more recent times, the “Pepsi MAX. Maximum Taste. No sugar.” campaign revitalized the brand’s diet soda line, propelling Pepsi Max into the limelight. But not all campaigns had the desired outcome.
One 1996 campaign (promising a jet as a pun in its ads) made the headlines, leading to the infamous Leonard vs Pepsico Inc case, and the humorous Pepsi, Where’s my Jet? Netflix mini-series.
All of these campaigns were successful because they tapped into the youthful energy and spirit that Pepsi aimed to embody – they truly represented the “Pepsi Generation.”
Pepsi as Inspiration: Contemporary Artists using the Pepsi Logo
Over the course of its 125-year history, the Pepsi logo has not only left its mark in the beverage industry, but also in the realm of pop culture, film, and art. A true pop icon, it famously featured in Andy Warhol’s paintings, side by side with stars and the other symbols of the consumerist society of the 70s and 80s.
Today, a young generation of digital artists and designers are drawing inspiration from this iconic symbol, creating innovative pieces that showcase the logo in unexpected and creative ways.
From pop art-inspired illustrations to 3D renderings on cans, the Pepsi logo is a versatile symbol in the digital art world, which distinctly evokes 80s and 90s atmospheres. These contemporary works reflect the enduring appeal of the Pepsi brand, while also capturing the mood and aesthetic of our modern digital age. They are a testament to how Pepsi continues to inspire creativity and connect with the young generation.