For the first time in its 120 year history, Coca Cola will market its flagship soda alongside three other variants, Diet Coke, Coca-Cola Zero, and Coca-Cola Life in a new approach called the “One Brand Strategy”. This is partly in response to a consumer shift towards products that are perceived as healthier and contain less sugar.
Sugar free, low calorie, and other “healthier” alternatives to traditional coca cola are not new. Such alternatives have existed since 1982 when Diet Coke was first introduced. This new approach represents a fundamental shift in strategy for Coca cola. In the past, Coke has launched its new products as entirely separate brands, with their own values and personality distinctly apart from that of original Coca-Cola. “This strategy of generating sub brands and not variants has created some distortions as to what the main brand is. Now we’re going to have one brand with multiple variants.” stated Coca-Cola’s Chief Marketing Officer, Marcos de Quinto when speaking at the unveiling event in Paris on Jan 19th.
Part of the One Brand strategy is a new worldwide marketing promotion known as “Taste the Feeling” which will replace Coca Cola’s 7 yearlong “Open Happiness” campaign. “Open Happiness” tried to equate Coca-Cola specifically with the feeling of happiness. “Taste the feeling” takes the sentiment and turns it on its head. For one thing this campaign is specifically targeting millennials, a notoriously fickle bunch. Millennials don’t like to be told how to feel, they want to discover their feelings for themselves and then share those feelings with the world.
Coca-Cola is trying to cater to this need with a separate online campaign made up of GIF scenes in a bid to boost viral share ability and allows users to pull a GIF scene directly from their microsite. Users can then personalize the scene with real-time feelings and share it on social media under the #TasteTheFeeling hashtag. All this emphasis on online marketing is an attempt by Coca Cola to identify brand ambassadors that will take the taste the feeling message, personalize it and then spread the message to as many of their followers and friends as they can.
Another important distinction that “Taste the Feeling” carries is that it is the first time in over a decade that any company has attempted a single global marketing. The idea is that by keeping it vague and yet simultaneously personal they can appeal to as many different nationalities, personalities, and identities as possible.
How does this make me feel as a millennial, the target of a carefully crafted campaign meant to appeal to people of my age? Should I be honored that they want my patronage? Blessed that they have turned their sanctimonious gaze upon my often overlooked and poverty stricken generation. Frankly, I feel like I’m being patronized by a corporation that has lost its way and its relevance. Coca cola no longer represents any particular feeing or value. It’s a sugar drink in a world where the trends twist around new and better ways to be healthy. I mean Gif the feeling? Really? Is that the best you can do Coke? If you are going to pander to an entire generation at least do it in an ironic self-depreciating way. That will encourage people to get in on the joke and will rebrand Coke as that fun company you would want to invite to your next tea lit wine and cheese party while you obsess over the size of your moustache.
At the end of the day Coca-Cola as a company will never really go away, but the relevance of their trademark product will most likely fall to the wayside much as every product that required a dated acquired taste has. Just ask the inventor of the Necco wafer.