LOS ANGELES: Coca-Cola has a "higher trust score" among online consumers than Pepsi, but the latter brand outperforms its rival in the key area of empathy, according to a study.

Marty Ercoline, senior director/sales and clients at analytics and research firm evolve24 - a unit of Maritz Research - detailed these findings at the Future of Consumer Intelligence conference organised by the Institute for International Research (IIR) USA.

"Trust can be elusive; it can be difficult to build, retain and measure. So we set out to look at the emotional drivers. We knew that if we glued them together [in] the right way, we could identify the standard set," he said.

In calculating its results, evolve24 assessed digital interactions between consumers through the lens of four components, each of which laddered up to trust: openness/transparency, expertise, dedication and – most importantly – empathy.

"It wasn't a taste test. We weren't interested in, 'I like the taste of something over the other,'" said Ercoline. (For more, including detailed results from the study, read Warc's exclusive report: Coke versus Pepsi, again, in a battle of trusted brands.)

Based on its analysis of 98,000 "unique trust-bearing social media conversations" relevant to the two soft drinks, he told the delegates, Coca-Cola was found to have "a higher trust score".

"It was really about how these two companies measure – in their space, in the beverage industry, in their CPG industry vertical – against each other given those four emotional drivers [that] culminated into the word 'trust.'"

Coke came out on top overall, having been the subject of more discussions framed by the context of trust, "netting more positive trust discussions" and outperforming its rival in the categories driving this metric.

The good news for Pepsi was that empathy was a larger contributor to its net score than was the case for Coca-Cola.

If the former brand can identify ways of effectively capitalising on that fact, Ercoline informed the IIR assembly, it could offer a route to increasing market share.

"When we ran the trust metric, we really didn't realise [the key finding] wasn't about the volume of each of these measures. It was more about the 'empathy' measurement coming out so strongly for Pepsi," he said.

Data sourced from Warc