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The Real Pepsi Challenge: How One Pioneering Company Broke Color Barriers in 1940s American Business Paperback – February 5, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Wall Street Journal writer Capparell (author of the leadership book Shackleton's Way) recounts the struggles of 12 of the first black executives hired by any leading U.S. business in this worthwhile but plodding account. They got their break when Pepsi-Cola CEO Walter S. Mack, who was facing an uphill battle against Coke, decided that tapping the "Negro market" would help Pepsi win. He hired Edward F. Boyd, a sometime actor, to create a team of salesmen to push Pepsi-Cola with black customers. The team quickly became community role models, feted in magazines like Jet and Ebony, while Coke enthusiastically backed Georgia's racist governor Herman Talmadge. As a result, Pepsi earned a reputation as the "liberal" soft drink, capturing the lion's share of the cola market among African-Americans. But after Mack fell to a corporate shakeup in 1951, the effort was disbanded. One member of Boyd's team, despite years of success at Pepsi and an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago, later had to take a job mopping floors to support his family. Readers may wish the writing were more adept, yet this account makes clear the incredible barriers to black achievement that existed just half a century ago. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Imagine the state of race relations in segregated America in 1946. Capparell, a journalist, describes the remarkable decision by the Pepsi Company to hire 12 black persons as upper-level salespeople to develop the black market. The team operated for more than four years, and in soliciting blacks everywhere, they surpassed their profit goals. Generating profits was their sole purpose. However, this is also a story of unintended consequences, including introducing diversity into corporate America, revolutionizing the strategies of niche marketing, featuring black actors in ads, and identifying blacks as an important consumer segment. Capparell extensively interviewed the six living members of that team formed 60 years ago who were genuine pioneers in overcoming prejudice within a large corporation and dealing with Jim Crow laws of segregation while traveling. This is a snapshot in time, with its profit successes but also its failures. Although it did not change the business world, it set the stage for ambitious black executives who followed them. Mary Whaley
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; Reprint edition (February 5, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743265726
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743265720
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.1 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,530,375 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Jon Hunt on February 20, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
What a fascinating book! I grew up in the 1960s when Pepsi and Coke were almost synonymous. Little did I know that the decade or so behind me had produced such a romp over the cola fields.

Stephanie Capparell's book, "The Real Pepsi Challenge" is terrific in many ways. She highlights the years circa 1947-1951 when Pepsi president Walter Mack, liberal and determined, set about to put together a team of black Americans to appeal to the burgeoning buying power of a group of people who represented a percentage of Americans equal to the entire Canadian population. Capparell then goes on not only to highlight the chief operating force for a team of twelve under the direction of the talented Edward F. Boyd but how they managed to be successful at a time when Jim Crow laws were still in effect and Jackie Robinson was just emerging. These men, talented, educated and from a variety of backgrounds, perfectly captured by the author, moved Pepsi-Cola within striking distance of rival Coca-Cola. It's an American success story at its best.

The thrust of "The Real Pepsi Challenge" concerns those post-war years and Capparell is at her best when she mirrors the times and the difficulties the team had in going out in the field. Given the times, her references to advertising and societal concerns are eye-popping. Subsequently, she gives a follow-up as to the new owner's decision to disband the group, and what happened to them after some of them left Pepsi, but others stayed.

"The Real Pepsi Challenge" is a highly recommended book. The author has done a great job in putting together the recollections of those who worked for Pepsi and how they connected with the era in which they lived. Congratulations, Ms. Capparell!
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Format: Hardcover
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. We highly recommend this intriguing saga to all students of corporate history, sales, advertising and racial politics.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Walter Ryan on March 20, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Loved this book. Pepsi is my favorite beverage and it was great to learn all that Pepsi and Pepsi-Cola President Walter Mack did to help civil rights in the past. This is a book you can't put down.
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By Candi Harlan on May 1, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
My sister collects Pepsi products. We love to hunt for Pepsi items. Excellent book!! It's nice to have the knowledge all in one book.
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