Seeing red - Can Coca-Cola Co's new brand strategy solve the sugar problem and buy the world a Coke at the same time? - Comment
All Coca-Cola variants now sit under one brand message
Yesterday, the Coca-Cola Co announced plans to bring its Coke, Coke Zero, Diet/Light Coke and Coke Life brands under one marketing umbrella - championing the famous red and white Coca-Cola logo across the board. Instead of having seperate brand campaigns for each variant, the hope is that all four benefit from one brand Coke message.
The worldwide campaign, which will run throughout the year, features ten television adverts, around 100 images, a new music "anthem" and "audio signature" and shareable and customisable digital activations.
While a rising tide (of investment) will no doubt float all ships, the company has flagged that the campaign has been designed to give its low- and no-calorie variants a boost.
At yesterday's launch event in Paris, chief operating officer James Quincey told journalists that pilots of the new strategy led to an acceleration in the sales of "Lights and Zeros". He described that as "important", which is not surprising for a CSD brand that has unwittingly become the poster child for sugar's part in the world's obesity epidemic.
The new 'Taste the Feeling' tagline will run in all of Coke's markets and although the over-arching philosophy is the same, you might see different variants used in identical creative. Gone are the days of gender-specific marketing such as the 2013 sexy gardener commercial for Diet Coke.
The new campaign has been in development for 11 months and test markets included the UK, where the 'One Brand' message was trialled last May. And, to prove Quincey's point, GB marketing director Bobby Brittain said sales of low- and no-sugar SKUs had risen, thanks to the introduction of the more uniform positioning. He also said that Coke Zero's share of total investment in the UK will "double" with the launch of the new concept. This is part of the company's aim to get "50% of the trademark in GB to be no- or low-," he said. That would also make the country the first in the world to hit that proportion of sales, according to Coca-Cola.
The natural conclusion is that brand Coke will lose sales to its low- and no-calorie cousins. But, perhaps the question of whether sales of low- and no- are cannibalising core 'red' Coke is no longer relevant: The company needs them to occasionally be cannibalised because it wants consumers to move around the Coke portfolio, drinking sugary drinks in moderation and enjoying sugar-free variants that taste as close as possible to the core brand.
Arguably, this is the only way to hope to convince law-makers that the industry doesn't need legislation and sugar tax. And, it's the way to grow the business: to think about the total footprint of the brand.
Which brings us on to the colour red. Though management would not be drawn to explicitly spell out a move for all variants to become red, it was certainly implied and Rodolfo Echeverria, VP of global creative, connections & digital, said packaging would change "eventually". In the UK, subtle changes are already in place - the caps on Diet Coke, for example, have turned from silver to red.
He also flagged that what differentiates, say, Coke Zero from Coke would change to become a feature of the drink, rather than - as it is now - a brand of its own. Echeverria likened the 'feature' approach to the different kinds of seats you could pay for when one buys a car.
All this would suggest, then, that the company is preparing for a time when red Coke, in its traditional sense, won't be its top priority any more. By then, it won't matter: Don't be surprised if the whole stable turns red, sugar or not.
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