Mr. PiBB was born in the summer of 1972 after The Coca-Cola Company had the intention of creating a drink that would rival the growing success of Dr Pepper in Southern markets. After losing a law suit filed by Dr Pepper manufacturers who disputed Coke’s original use of the name “Peppo,” Coke settled on the name “Mr. PiBB” for important brand-identification purposes. A combination of an abbreviated formal title and a one-word surname would serve the purpose of helping consumers associate the new product with the “Dr Pepper-type” flavor.
On June 28, 1972, Coke began test-marketing Mr. PiBB in Dr Pepper’s own backyard (Time, July 3 1972, pg. 40). Among the first cities chosen were Waco and Temple, Texas and Columbus, Starkville and West Point, Mississippi. The following week, the new product was introduced in Texarkana, Texas and within a couple of months, Mr. PiBB appeared in Houston, Galveston, and Tyler, Texas. Later that year, they extended distribution to include some Southern and Mid-Western states (Arkansas, Tennessee, Kansas and Georgia).
Within a couple of years, Mr. PiBB was available in most states East of the Mississippi River and some West-Coast states including California, Oregon and Washington. Even though Mr. PiBB was unable to equal the overwhelmingly tremendous popularity of Dr Pepper, Coke was able to gain valuable soda market-share points during this time through the introduction of the new brand.
In the first several years of Mr. PiBB’s existence, Coke placed the description, “Blended Flavored (Cherry and Other Flavorings) Carbonated Beverage” on all Mr. PiBB products for consumer identification purposes. Mr. PiBB was first marketed with the slogan “It Goes Down Good,” which was printed on the original brown and yellow steel cans and point of sale (POS) promotional materials. Some other advertising pieces during this time included variations of the slogan, namely “With the Easy Taste that Goes Down Good,” and “Smooth and Easy It Goes Down Good.” “Rise Up With Mr. PiBB” was also used.
The first internal Coca-Cola Company promotion for the brand was titled “Private Air Force for Mr. PiBB.” Coke authorized the production of gift items with the “Private Air Force for Mr. PiBB” logo to be used as incentives for Coke representatives to meet sales goals, set up displays and successfully merchandise the product. For more information about the “Private Air Force” promotion, and the Mr. PiBB hot-air balloon flown during the drink’s introduction, click here.
In 1975, Coke changed the color of the Mr. PiBB can to red. This was due to consumer preference research which concluded that the original brownish color used gave off the impression to the consumer that Mr. PiBB was a form of root beer, a dangerous marketing mistake since Coke’s goal was to capitalize on Dr Pepper’s taste distinction.
Throughout the late 1970’s, Coke spent millions of dollars trying to bolster Mr. PiBB name recognition among consumers. Comedians George Burns and David Brenner were hired to shoot Mr. Pibb television commercials. The Mr. Pibb logo was posted in Motocross racing events and Joie Chitwood stunt shows with hopes of picking up greater market share in one of the most important regional markets for spicy cherry soft drinks – the US South. There was a sharp increase in print, television and radio advertising, using new slogans such as “Have A PiBB Mister.”
In April 1980, Coke, intending to increase sales, redesigned the formula of Mr. PiBB and marketed cans and packaging with “New Taste” printed in bold yellow lettering. Coca-Cola conducted the “1980’s: A New Taste Odyssey” sweepstakes for their employees to encourage field support of the improved product. For complete details about Mr. PiBB’s new taste and the sweepstakes, click here.
However, Mr. PiBB was never able to threaten the predominance of Dr Pepper, which was a “first-to-market” product, establishing primary name-recognition among consumers in the “cherry-flavored” soft drink category. Dr Pepper had almost a 100-year head start to win over the minds of the average drinker. Some industry estimates have had Dr Pepper outselling Mr. PiBB at a ratio of 17-to-1 (much of this disparity, though, is due to Mr. PiBB’s non-national distribution).
In the early 1980’s, Coke realized an opportunity to form a strategic partnership with the Dr Pepper Company which exchanged use of superior Coca-Cola bottling facilities for a share in Dr Pepper sales profits. Only in regions of the country where Pepsi or 7up outbid Coke for this right did Coke resort to the production of Mr. PiBB. This limited production meant less time and energy spent by Coke on marketing for Mr. PiBB, which explains why Mr. PiBB promotional material and packaging from the 1980’s and beyond is more difficult to find today.
The original Mr. PiBB logo – referred to as “Generation 1” – that was created in 1972 was used for over 18 years. With exception of a few color changes and the use of just “PiBB” in the late 1970’s and 1980’s, the font and style remained the same. In 1991, Coke decided to redesign the Mr. PiBB logo (Generation 2). This was a very short-lived design because of a law suit filed in late 1992 which alleged that the new diagonal styling on cans and bottles looked too much like Dr Pepper’s. It was soon replaced by a new, fancier design in 1993 (Generation 3). The next year, the Mr. PiBB head character was added to the 1993 design (Generation 4) which again, only lasted for a couple years. It was at this time when the slogan “Put it in Your Head” was introduced and Coke placed Mr. PiBB in McDonald’s fountain drink accounts nationwide. The Generation 5 design was adopted in 1996 (with minor revisions in 1998) and retained the “Put it in Your Head” concept.
Mr. PiBB has been produced in many different sizes of cans and bottles. Over the years, there have existed 8oz, 280ml, 12oz and 16oz steel and aluminum cans, as well as 8oz, 10oz, 300ml, 12oz, 16oz, 26oz, 32oz, 33.8oz (1 litre), 48oz, 64oz and 67.6oz (2 litre) glass bottles. Plastic bottles have also been made in 20oz, .5 litre, 1 litre and 2 litre sizes.
On June 26, 2001, the history of Mr. PiBB took yet another dramatic turn. The Coca Cola Company introduced a new version of Mr. PiBB – “Pibb Xtra” – into several Texas test-markets, including Houston and Dallas. Several months later, Pibb Xtra made its way into other states, namely Kansas and Missouri. Currently, the new version exists in multiple prominent bottling territories.
Text from pibbthug.com