Cola Turka is the first real attempt of a Turkish company to go head to head with the famous American rivals in the Turkish cola market. Although there have been Turkish cola brands before Cola Turka, they aimed at capturing tiny shares of the market through low prices. The company who took the challenge of battling rivals like Coca Cola and Pepsi is actually a large Turkish company called Ülker, which specializes in cookies and chocolate. Ülker had no experience in the beverage market prior to 2002. In short, Cola Turka is a Turkish cola produced by a Turkish firm with no experience in the cola market and a cola which had more or less the same price as its rivals when it came out. In such few words, it is possible to understand the nature, the price and the distribution of this product, and more details are provided in following sections of the paper. The more important question that must be asked initially is what promotion method was used and why Cola Turka became a success?




Chevy Chase advertising Cola Turk


Although the advertising campaign of Cola Turka seems like a very original concept, it actually rests on a well-known concept, or rather joke, in Turkey. We always joke around the fact that we are very different from other cultures because we have our own look at life and our own way of doing things. Taking this into account, Ülker concentrated on the idea that Cola Turka brings out the Turk in people. To better understand what we mean, a Turkish joke could come handy. We say that if a Turk would go to hell, he would make small talk with the devil and tell him “You’ve got a hard job here with all this heat and stuff. So do you get a heating bill here or how does it work?” If the Turk would end up in heaven, he would make small talk with the angels asking them how much they paid for their harps and where they got them.

One writer actually wrote that the success behind the commercial was the acting and directing, rather than the idea (Yaman, 2003). The commercials were successful because they had been able to successfully implement the idea at hand. The writer further added that “This is all related to the amount of money you have to set aside for advertising. With the right amount of money, one could even make Bill Clinton play a Turkish song on his saxophone.” In fact, it cannot be argued that the commercials prepared by Young & Rubicam were of high quality. They used Sinan Çetin, an award winning Turkish director, to direct it and famous American actor Chevy Chase to star in it.

In the first commercial, Chevy Chase walks down an avenue in the United States and sees a car passing by loaded with people waving the Turkish flag; a scene one would easily witness in Turkey after the national football team would get good a good result. The surprised Chase goes into a café and sits on a stool, next to a man with a cowboy hat. The man asks him “Hey, did you see the game last night?” Chase, trying to think what basketball, baseball or hockey game there was, gives up and asks him which match he is talking about. The cowboy starts telling him about the Beşiktaş match (a famous Turkish football team) and how Sergen (one of its famous players) scored an amazing goal. The stunned Chase then listens to the man with the cowboy hat use various Turkish expressions he has never heard in his life. In the end Chase decides to leave the café and the man, patting his chest, does not let him pay for his coffee. This is again an act one would see from hospitable Turkish people who love to argue over who will pay the bill.


Cola Turk commercial


In the second commercial with Chevy Chase, which is a continuation of the first one, he goes home and starts telling his wife that the weirdest thing happened today. At that point he realizes that his wife is cooking some kind of food he has never seen in his life. His wife tells him it is “biber dolması”, a popular Turkish food. He then turns his attention to the living room where his children seem to be kissing the hand of their grandfather, who gives them some money in return. Later on, the whole family sits down to have dinner and they are all in a happy mood. They start to sing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”, but after they have sipped their Cola Turkas, they change the song to a Turkish boy scouts song. By this time Chase thinks that he has gone crazy. His wife tells him to relax and offers him some Cola Turka. Upon drinking this cola, Chase also joins in to sing the Turkish song. At the end of the commercial, we see Chase outside of his house and he has sprouted a Turkish style moustache by now. A final joke is added when an old man selling potatoes and onions – as you would often see on the streets of Turkey – passes by the screen. We see the final message of the commercial, which can be translated into English roughly as “Cola Turka brings out the Turks in you.”




Ülker was established in 1944 a small bakery. Four years later, it opened a larger factory in Istanbul’s Topkapı district and tripled its production. In 1970, the company established Andolu Gıda in Ankara, doubled its cookie production and started exporting to the Middle East. In 1974, Ülker established its second plant in Istanbul and began modern chocolate production. It also established a research and development unit to help the company better compete with international brands. In 1992 the company moved in to the margarine, vegetable oil and industrial fats segments. Four years after that, it moved also into the dairy product market. Last but not least, Ülker also got into the carbonated beverage market (Ülker Corporate Website).

The main customers of Ülker products depend on the product. In the case of cookies and chocolate, Ülker reaches most of Europe (including Romania), most of the Middle East, half of Africa, all of the Turkic republics, USA, Canada, Panama, Trinidad, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, and Australia. In the case of Cola Turka however, Ülker currently does not reach any foreign country, but has plans to export to countries with large Turkish populations (e.g. Germany and Turkic republics). In this sense, Cola Turka is only a rival to American cola brands in Turkey.


Competitors of Cola Turka have been mentioned throughout the paper and, by now, are quite obvious. The main competitors are Coca Cola and Pepsi. A more detailed examination of each competitor’s market share in the Turkish market is provided later on in the paper. Perhaps a less obvious factor, especially to those unfamiliar with the Turkish market, is who the current and potential allies of Cola Turka are.

In June 2005, Beşiktaş Jimnastik Kulübü, one of Turkey’s greatest sports clubs signed a five year sponsorship deal with Cola Turka worth $21 million. While $9 million of this amount was paid upfront, $11 million of the remainder will be paid in various installments from 2007 onwards. Interesting enough, the remaining $1 million will be paid in the form of Cola Turka drinks rather than cash (NTV-MSNBC, 2005).


Cola Turk sports sponsorship


This sponsorship agreement is very important because Cola Turka has earned one of the most important allies it could hope for in the sports industry. Football is by far the most watched sport in Turkey and along with two other Istanbul based clubs, namely Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray, Beşiktaş has the most number of supporters in the country. By being the sponsor of this sports club, Cola Turka is also gaining the support of millions of football fans. Moreover, Beşiktaş also has a popular basketball team. Two of the other most popular basketball teams in Turkey are Efes Pilsen and Ülker, which is the parent company of Cola Turka. Thus, with the sponsorship deal, Cola Turka has also doubled its exposure in the basketball league. Additionally, Beşiktaş also has one of the most successful women’s volleyball clubs.

Within the framework of the deal, sportsmen or sportswomen of Beşiktaş will have the commercial of Cola Turka on their uniforms. This means a great deal of exposure on Turkish television, which has extensive sports coverage. Furthermore, success by Beşiktaş sports teams in European competition could also spell exposure on European television. Also, as part of the payment will be made in the form of drinks, this means that the sportsmen and sportswomen and various officials working for the club will get to drink Cola Turka at the camps or in the club buildings. This in turn could result in preference of Cola Turka over other colas by Beşiktaş personnel and their families. Thus, we could easily say that Beşiktaş will serve as an important ally for Cola Turka in the next five years.

In 2004, Turkish Airlines (THY), Turkey’s largest and most popular airlines, started serving Cola Turka in all of its domestic flights, in addition to serving Coca Cola and Pepsi. In January 2005, THY also started serving Cola Turka on certain international flights. Ahmet Doğan, Catering Director of THY was quoted as saying that they considered the countries heavily populated by Turks when deciding which international flights to serve Cola Turka on. The first international flights chosen under this framework were those to and from New York, Chicago, Germany and the Turkic republics in the Caucasus (Zaman, 2004).

This clearly is an important development for Cola Turka and it can be said that THY will serve as a great ally in this respect. What THY did was to allow people to make a choice: they could choose to drink Western cola brands or a Turkish cola brand on these flights. In other words, the newly formed Cola Turka was treated as an equal to the billion dollar industries of Coca Cola and Pepsi. This is quite an accomplishment and I doubt such an example was observed elsewhere in the world. What is even more interesting is that THY officials noted that there had been quite a few American passengers who asked for Cola Turka because they had either seen its advertisement or had heard about it in the international press.

If we think about the number of people that travel via THY and the percentage of them that wish to drink cola on the flights (which are both quite high), we can easily say that Cola Turka is getting a great daily exposure. What is even better for them is that this is a kind of exposure they did not even have to pay for. It is simply there because people wanted it to be there and THY is simply an organization that gave people the right to choose. In this sense, THY and other organizations which might also take a similar decision to allow Cola Turka to go head to head with its foreign competitors on equal ground, will serve as allies and an important platform for people to voice their preferences.


Cola in essence cannot really be considered part of any culture other than that of the United States, as Coca Cola and Pepsi both originate from this country. However, every country has taken these brands more or less into their everyday life. This in turn has decreased the importance of various cultural drinks found elsewhere in the world. In the case of Turkey, these colas have invaded the country starting from the early 1980s and the popularity of Turkish drinks such as gazoz and ayran have since decreased. The new generations cannot seem to survive with cola, despite the fact that many of their grandparents still might not have drunk a cola up to this day.

In short, we can easily say that cola is a Western invention and has no place in traditional Turkish culture. Many Turkish people today believe that the West is to blame for many of the things going wrong in the world today and do not see Western countries, especially the US, to be trustworthy. Most feel that the only thing the West is after is the financial exploitation of the rest of the world. Products of the US are viewed as the extension of their exploitation of the world. For example, some Turkish university students seem to especially be anti-West and to make a stand, they do not eat at American fast food restaurants such as McDonald’s, Burger King, and Kentucky Fried Chicken and go as far as not drinking cola. However, most Turkish youngsters, although they might agree from a political standpoint with the former group, cannot stop using certain American products. Perhaps, cola is the most important example in this respect.

From one point of view, if one does not eat American fast food, he or she still has quite a few alternatives. One can visit Turkish-owned fast food joints making hamburgers or can eat more Turkish fast food products, such as döner. Moreover, one can always cook hamburgers, fried chicken, pizzas, etc. at home, even if not at the same professionalism as the American fast food joints. Moreover, the Turkish food culture is so rich that not being able to eat a hamburger would not cause much concern.

However, the case of cola is different as finding alternatives is very hard. First of all, cola has a distinct taste one cannot get out of any other drink. If one were to examine the ingredients included in brands like Coca Cola, he or she would see that there is always a special ingredient. You do not find that ingredient in bubbly water or the once popular Turkish soda pop known as gazoz. To stop drinking cola, for most people, is as hard as quitting smoking.

One example I can give from my own experience is related to my young niece. When she was around three or four years old, she used to drink a lot of cola. Realizing the dangers of this habit, my sister decided that she would not allow her to drink cola for some time. Upon this decision, my niece went into some sort of psychological shock in less than half a day. She cried non-stop and practically begged for a sip of cola.

Second of all, Turkish alternatives to the American colas have been unsuccessful prior to Cola Turka. The general view was that the taste of Turkish colas was far off their American counterparts. The Turkish colas tried to gain a share of the market by having much lower prices in comparison to the Coca Cola and Pepsi, but this did not end up being a healthy solution. Moreover, the majority of restaurants in Turkey never carried these Turkish cola brands. Customers, at best, had a choice between Coca Cola and Pepsi. In the majority of the cases, restaurants would just carry only one of these American brands. There simply was no reason to carry a cheaper and worse tasting Turkish brand.

In short, although many Turkish people wanted to take a stand against the West, their cultural and social identities were not enough to cut American colas out of their lives. Clearly, what the market and these people needed was not an alternative to cola itself, but an alternative to American colas. That could only be provided by a good tasting Turkish cola that would go head to head with the Americans with its quality, rather than its price. That is exactly what Ülker provided with Cola Turka and it explains quite a bit of the success of this Turkish made cola, without even considering the success in its advertising.


The demand for non-alcoholic drinks is worth around $220 billion in the world’s twelve richest countries. Soft-drinks (pops) form around 60 percent of this market, with colas forming the largest sub-segment. In the case of Turkey, the non-alcoholic drink market is worth around $960 million, of which 65 percent are composed of pops. The cola market in Turkey was worth $250 million before Cola Turka entered it. Coca Cola was the leader in the Turkish market holding 55 percent of the market, while Pepsi followed it with 40 percent (Yaman, 2003). In other words, Cola Turka entered a market owned 95 percent by two American brands.

In fact, this duopolistic state of the cola market was what made many Turkish firms turn their attention to it. Over the years, Turkish cola brands such as Kristal Cola, Can Cola, Huzur Cola, as well as various supermarket colas such as Gima and Carrefour, entered the Turkish cola market. However, none of them seriously entered the market to be a true competition for the two American brands. Rather, they simply were after small shares of the market and they sought after selling their colas through lower prices. It can be argued that this tactic was a more realistic one, as no cola brand had been able to go beat Coca Cola and Pepsi elsewhere in the world.

For example, the British group Virgin, which entered every market from airlines to music, also entered British the cola market in 1994. Despite its home filed advantage, Virgin Cola could only get 4 percent of the British cola market at the end of its second year. Other cheaper colas formed 18 percent of the British market, while Coca Cola and Pepsi continued to hold roughly 78 percent (Yaman, 2003). Thus, even a giant name like Virgin was unable to go head to head with the two American brands in its own country. This should have been enough of a lesson for Virgin. However, they took a weird decision and entered the American cola market. Needless to say, despite the millions of dollars Virgin spent in the US on advertising, it could only hold up its budget for two years. At the end of this period, Virgin officials stated that they were pulling Virgin cola out of the country as it was simply meaningless trying to battle with the two American brands.

It is hard to assess exactly how much of the market Cola Turka has captured. Ülker is not a company of which the majority of the shares are public, so it has no legal obligation to make its sale numbers public. However, Ülker Food Group President Metin Yurdagül was quoted in February 2005 as saying that Cola Turka had captured 20 percent of the Turkish cola market and that it was ranked second in the market (Yeni Şafak, 2005). As noted before, Coca Cola and Pepsi had formed 55 and 40 percent of the market two years earlier than the above statement. Thus, in two years Pepsi would have had to lose around 20 percentage points, since we can assume that the leader in the Turkish cola market is still Coca Cola. Nevertheless, this is a great accomplishment for Cola Turka, which came out of nowhere and captured 20 percent of the market. This is a success Virgin Cola could not even come close to in the United Kingdom despite being a billion dollar company.

Additional information found in 2005 showed that, according to surveys, Cola Turka has entered 63 percent of Turkish households. Ülker also boasted that as a result of Cola Turka entering, the cola market in Turkey grew by 13 percent in 2003 and 27 percent in 2004 (Yeni Şafak, 2005). Assuming that this is an increase higher than anticipated, we can also say that Cola Turka actually increased the amount of cola sales in Turkey. Thus, more people feel that a Turkish brand is more in conformity with their social and cultural beliefs. In fact, Yurdagül also stated that their 2005 end of year target was $200 million, compared to the total value of the market worth $250 million in 2003. We could assume that if this trend continued in the Turkish cola market, both the shares of Cola Turka and the overall value of the market increased greatly by 2006. The increase in the demand in the market can also be explained by the two American brands decreasing prices as a result of Cola Turka entering the market.


Cola Turk sport shirt

What can be said about the overall legal environment in Turkey? Other than obtaining a license from the Ministry of Health, there are not many obstacles, especially for an already established brand like Ülker. Obtaining this license is not a major problem for colas, but is only a problem in the case of energy drinks. However, a much more important aspect of the legal setting is the legal obligation of American fast-food joints towards Coca Cola and Pepsi.

Anyone who was eaten at McDonald’s knows that there is only one brand of cola available there: Coca Cola. In the case of Burger King and Kentucky Fried Chicken one can only find Pepsi as the brand of cola. One will not be able to make a choice between Coca Cola or Pepsi in any of these popular fast-food restaurants. Moreover, the brand of cola does not change from one country to another in these restaurants. If one finds Pepsi in a Burger King in Bucharest, one will also find the same brand in a Burger King located in New York, Tokyo or Istanbul. What this means is that no matter how popular Cola Turka becomes in Turkey, it has no chance of replacing Coca Cola or Pepsi in any of these restaurants unless a major legal reform was to take place.

We do not know the full details of the agreement between the American cola brands and American fast-food restaurants. Could exceptions be made for countries such as Turkey in which a local cola brand is battling successfully with the American brands? Some of these restaurants have provided traditional Turkish drinks such as ayran, but as this is not a cola, I doubt it affects any legal obligation between the two parties mentioned. Nevertheless, Cola Turka being offered in a very popular fast-food restaurant is food for thought. One wonders how much of Coca Cola and Pepsi sales actually come from these restaurants in which the customer has no control over what brand of cola he can drink. One further wonders how those sales would be affected upon the introduction of Cola Turka in these restaurants. If we take the example of what happened in the market as a whole, we could assume that the market shares of Coca Cola and Pepsi would further decrease if people were allowed to make a choice between an American and Turkish brand. As mentioned in the Turkish Airlines example, in the section dealing with the allies of Cola Turka, people do in fact choose the Turkish brand when they have the freedom to choose.




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