BY DAVID NICHOLS, brandgym Managing Partner and Head of Invention
After years of cool marketing campaigns revolving around football, music and latterly computer gaming, the world’s most famous brand is going back to basics. Coca-Cola has been communicating about its product, what’s in it ("Nothing artificial. Never had been, never will be") and the product heritage, dating back to 1886 when John Pemberton created his secret formula.
This print ad has been cropping up in selective publications for about a year now, and has been run in key markets around the world, including the USA. The print choice in the UK (e.g. British Airways magazine) seems to be targeted at an older, upmarket target.
Here’s the TV version:
Why are they doing this?
1. Sizzle don’t work without Sausage
As the years have gone by, the Coca-Cola team have let the core ‘Red’ Coke rely on its key attribute of great taste. They have not entered the fray on naturalness, green credentials or additives. But now it seems the market has finally caught up with them. Gone are the days when anyone actually knew anything about what goes into Coke other than lots of sugar (does anyone remember that they have a ‘Secret Recipe’ locked in a vault? - no). All that expensive music and football sponsorship won’t convince if people think poorly of the product.
2. Have to woo the gatekeepers
It can be assumed that a large portion of their volume is bought in 1-3ltr bottles in grocery retailers by mums. It is then doled out to thirsty kids and teens at home. If parents believe the product to be tooth-rottingly awful and full of artificial nasties they will ration it or even, as in my home, ban it completely.
So Coke have realised that they need to talk to parents to convince them of the all natural origins of their ingredients in order to unlock the fridge door and turn around their presumably shrinking family volumes
3. Remind people own Label ISN'T The Real Thing
When the financial poo hits the fan, people will only pay for what they truly value. Maybe Coke has just wandered across the line into the ‘not worth it’ camp, and families are deserting them for Own Label that is significantly cheaper.
Now is definitely the time get back to brand basics and convince people of the high quality ingredients and the integrity of the product vs Own Label.
These are things that not that long ago were assumed to be ‘rock solid’ for Coke, as they had been for decades. It just goes to show how much of a cultural shift has occurred in the last 10 years. The Credit Crunch being an accelerating force but not the cause of this malaise.
4. Sometimes internal pride needs a boost
It’s very important that people within a business are proud of their products. Our friend Richard Moseley, writer of the excellent ‘Employer Brand’ book, states that the best way to recruit and retain good people is to have a product they can be proud of.
Could it be that this targeted communication is in part doing an internal PR job? Word on the street has it that in an internal survey the percentage of Coke employees who would serve ‘red’ Coke to their children was in the single figures. When even your own employees won’t touch the product – maybe it’s time to change your ways…
Whatever their motivations, it is refreshing to see a great brand getting back to the basics. Our vote would be to do this on a larger scale, with upweighted mainstream media, to tell the world about the product quality and integrity of Coke, why it is “The Real Thing”.