Soft drink brand now has a “real point of view”
Coca-Cola, the behemoth of a soft drinks brand that used to be marketed as ‘the real thing’ with a catchy tune, is turning away from its former marketing which told a story. It is piloting instead a new experience led approach to make sure that as a brand, Coca-Cola “has a real point of view now as people want to understand what a brand stands for”.
Really? Do they? When is the last time you had a discussion about what your mixer stood for, and examined what the brand’s point of view was? Even Fever Tree, one of the most successful new soft drink brands of recent times, concentrates on taste, not the meaning of the brand – and this is what people are likely to discuss: Which tastes better? Try asking a few teenagers if they care what their drink brand stands for.
A group of us got very drunk a while back, comparing different gins with different mixers to try to work out whether Fever Tree was worth the expense.
A great deal of fun can also be had doing a blind wine tasting, comparing the cheap and cheerful with the upmarket, uphyped bottles that people talk about in hushed, deferential tones. But rarely does the matter of the brand message actually figure in the choices. I am sure the same exercise can be undertaken without the alcohol, across a whole range of products, but it might not lead to quite so much hilarity.
For example, do you remember the cat food ad that said “eight out of ten cat owners (and they had to add – who expressed a preference) said their cats preferred Whiskers? Of course you do. It was memorable and shows the value of a survey. This ad ran for years and years.
Pratik Thakar, director of integrated marketing communication of the Coca-Cola ASEAN business unit, said his goal was to understand how the business plans to become “more modern in its communications approach”.
Thakar says one of the starting points was to look at how it had already evolved its strategy from being about a big core idea, to creating connections, and finally to storytelling. He said that brands now had to do more than telling stories, they had to take actions to be relevant. This means that as a brand Coca-Cola has to have a real point of view now as people want to understand what a brand stands for.
OK, so agencies trawl deeper than the discussion in the pub or round a dinner table. We accept that. Isn’t this missing the point though?
Take Superdry – this is a brand that enjoyed spectacular growth because it provided clothes that were a little tighter, edgier and more cool than the competition. It worked – until everyone was wearing their logo on clothes then suddenly it was no longer fashionable. End of.
Consider LK Bennet – the doyenne of royals and ladies who lunch, until even they began to question whether £350 and more for a day dress was really worth it, when competitiors were offering similar items for a lot less.
With hindsight it seems so easy. Offer the consumer something they want, at an acceptable price, that meets their requirements – whatever these may be. And be cool, aspirational and if possible have good sustainability credentials – and watch your back. Reputations can be killed in an instant. This means that if Coca-Cola decides what it stands for, it needs to follow this up with action and live by the message. How is your plastic policy doing Coca-Cola? What about all that sugar that rots kids’ teeth and leads to diabetes? How are you doing re world peace? (Oh yes, they have had a go at this one.)
Brand messages are a minefield. Hasn’t anyone suggested to Coke that they should consider a new experiential loyalty programme that actually gives something back instead of spending all that money on marketing?
And what about Amazon’s decision to quit China, because Alibaba is so dominant? Well well, even the mighty have limits. We find this strangely comforting.
So too the news that Facebook can’t get people to use Messenger to send money to their friends.
Are they connected? Only that it reflects a general scattergun approach to brand management, and a lack of understanding of customers that could be likened to how we feel about our teenage children – totally beyond our comprehension.