The “Soda War”: What Schwarzkopf Could Teach Bloomberg

By: Dan Kennedy on: June 14th, 2012 7 Comments

The “soda war” press about New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposal to ban super-sized soft drinks is really heating up…

Bloomberg wants to restrict soda drink servings to no more than 16 ounces in restaurants,  street carts and entertainment facilities like stadiums and movie theaters.

Millions of dollars are being spent on advertising on both sides of the proposal.

Recently the city ran a full-page ad showing a 32 oz. soda cup—the kind you see in fast food restaurants and movie theaters—alongside 26 packets of sugar.

The message reads:

“Your kid just ate 26 packs of sugar” and gives a warning message that states sugary drinks can cause obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Another ad shows a man chugging sugar packets at a diner counter—illustrating what people do when they drink soda.

The soft drink industry, shop keepers, the fast food industry, New Yorkers, the media…have all responded, not all favorably I might add.

In an attempt to restore their reputation, a recent ad appeared in the New York subway with former rivals, Coca-Cola and Pepsi teaming up with Dr. Pepper Snapple Co. The ad depicts four delivery workers pushing dollies of obviously different cases of Pepsi, Coke, Sunny Delight and Dr. Pepper.

The message reads:

“More Choices, Smaller Portions and Fewer Calories.” (The three soft drink industry giants formed an advocacy group with the American Beverage Association and have spent nearly $70 million in lobbying and advertising in an attempt to fight against campaigns, which have slightly damaged their revenue.)

A NY local television poll found 53 percent of residents opposed the ban, 42 percent were in support, and more than half thought such a measure would do nothing to help combat obesity.

Bloomberg’s “soda war” made me think of when I was making speaking appearances with General Schwarzkopf.

One of my favorite “green room stories” from the Peter Lowe “Get Motivated” circuit involves a conversation I had with General Schwarzkopf about how his Gulf War leadership had wound up being so personally profitable for him; high speaking fees and enormous demand, book deals, and so forth.

I asked him what he thought was the one smartest, cleverest, savviest thing he and Colin Powell had done that produced this outcome.

He answered, “Picking a war we could win.”

When I consult with clients, often times, when I first meet them anyway, they have a plan of where they want to market and spend money and what type of marketing piece they want me to work on first.

Ninety percent of the time a client will ask me to do something—an ad campaign, a radio spot—whatever—that is NOT the best place to spend their money.

Fifty percent of the time a client will tell me they want to have me work on a campaign that I know will fail or only generate moderate results.

It’s one of the reasons I do a diagnostic process up front before we agree on what I’ll do for them—because I want to start with the campaign I know is going to give them the biggest win.

I’m not sure who will win the “soda war”, but as you make marketing decisions about your own business, I can tell you this…

Run the campaign you know will give you the biggest win.

And before you go full tilt on an unknown, test it out in a small market to see if you get a win — before you find yourself in an expensive ad war you’re not certain you can win.

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    Dan Kennedy is internationally recognized as the 'Millionaire Maker,' helping people in just about every category of business turn their ideas into fortunes. Dan's "No B.S." approach is refreshing amidst a world of small business marketing hype and enriches those who act on his advice. For more money-making marketing tips, tactics and strategies, go to

    7 Responses

    1. Mike Stodola MikeS says:

      There are four main areas where you can get more business…do you know the four areas in order from easiest/cheapest to hardest and most expensive?

      • We may be talking about different frames for the same idea, but it’s widely accepted that there are three, not four areas to increase business (in order from easiest/least expensive to hardest/most expensive:

        1) Increase your average transaction size.
        2) Increase your client’s/customer’s buying frequency.
        3) Get more clients/customers.

        • Mike Stodola MikeS says:

          You’re right…we’re just coming at things from different directions. I was thinking of the following fours ways we teach, but it’s in relation to the easiest most profitable ways to get more business. I was thinking of the following list get more business from…
          1) Your current customers
          2) Past customers
          3) Customer Referrals
          4) New Customers

          I like your list too and would add client referrals to that list as well. People too often focus on new customers when they haven’t even begun to fully optimize their current customers. Good list Marc!

    2. Clint Butler says:


      I have been online for quite awhile and I have learned that testing is an “absolute” requirement for any campaign. It wasn’t until I joined GKIC that I learned how offline marketer’s were doing the same thing. I am still trying to grasp the best ways to track my ROI for offline advertising or sales letters, however, the monthly newsletters are helping.

      • Mike Stodola MikeS says:

        How do you do this with your online advertising? It’s virtually the same technique. Just set up an excel sheet if you don’t have some other type of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. Tell me what more you need and I’ll be glad to help.

    3. Government, like nature, abhors a vacuum. If something moves, regulate it. If something doesn’t move, regulate it. If something happens, regulate it. If something doesn’t happen, regulate it.

      Lather, rinse, repeat (sigh).

    4. This is a great point. Picking enough winning battles will definitely help win the war. I love the fact that as a business, we can choose ‘where’ and ‘when’ we do battle. There is an affiliate marketing launch that was happening and many people are pummeling their lists with offers. However, I did the exact opposite this week. I pummeled them with value. Thus choosing a winning battle and earning more respect.

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