Summary of The Real Pepsi Challenge

The Inspirational Story of Breaking the Color Barrier in American Business

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The Real Pepsi Challenge book summary
By hiring black executives and tapping the African-American market in 1940, Pepsi staked out new ground in the cola war.


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9 Innovation

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Today, ad posters featuring African-American models are standard corporate practice. But during the 1940s, the Pepsi-Cola Company broke new ground when it ran ads featuring black middle-class families and community achievers. Stephanie Capparell creates an engaging account of Pepsi’s push to integrate its sales staff and customer base. Using insightful interviews and exhaustive research, Capparell provides a detailed portrait of segregation, economic challenges and corporate intrigue. Given the book’s vast amount of information, a timeline and a list of key players would have helped readers navigate the crowded cast of executives and events. But that’s a minor oversight in an otherwise excellent book. getAbstract highly recommends this intriguing saga to all students of corporate history, sales, advertising and racial politics.

In this summary, you will learn

  • How Pepsi broke the color barrier in executive hiring in the U.S.;
  • Why companies finally began to reach out to the $10 billion African-American market; and
  • How politics and pressure finally got Coke to follow Pepsi in advertising to black Americans.


Color and Cola Lines
The 1940s battle between Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola has been well documented. But corporate historians have paid far less attention to a conflict of greater significance during that decade: The battle African-American professionals waged for access to corporate America...
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About the Author

Stephanie Capparell edits the “Marketplace” page for The Wall Street Journal, and is the author of Shackleton’s Way: Leadership Lessons from the Great Antarctic Explorer.

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