Diet Coke targets ‘loyal following’ with inspirational ‘Regret Nothing’ campaign

Coca-Cola is upping its investment in Diet Coke with a new campaign aimed at inspiring women, not in a move to target new consumers but in an effort to persuade its “loyal following” that sales data suggests might be lapsed drinkers to return to the fold.

“Regret Nothing” launches today (23 January) in an effort to inspire women to be more impulsive through a new TV spot, created by BETC London, as well as print, social and PR activity.

The ad, which is based on insight that suggests the fear of embracing impulsive behaviour can lead to self-restraint and regret, showcases a female character’s moment of indecision before she acts on impulse.

The “No Regrets” messaging also pushes the idea that there is nothing to regret by drinking the zero-calorie beverage.

The campaign is the latest shift in ad strategy for the brand, which has tried various approaches in its effort to reach women.

Last year, it brought back the famous Diet Coke “Hunk”, who has appeared on numerous occasions over the years, as part of its “Break” campaign, a slight move away from its the fashion-forward focus of previous years, with the brand announcing a three-year strategy in 2011 for all brand activity to be linked to fashion.

Also in 2011 it launched its Yahoo! Fashion channel, which offered fashion features, news reviews and videos, and over the past few years has also appointed designers including Karl Lagerfeld, Jean Paul Gaultier and Marc Jacobs as creative directors of the brand while forming partnerships with the likes of London Fashion Week and Asos.

Bobby Brittain, marketing strategy and activation director for Coca-Cola Great Britain, says despite the new messaging, the target consumer won’t change for the brand, which will continue to look to fashion as a part of its communications.

“Our relationship with a 30-something woman who is fashion-conscious is the same,” Brittain told Marketing Week. “What has evolved is the way we talk to them.”

However, Brittain doesn’t believe the campaign, or the brand in general, excludes men.

“We have a female bias, but not to the exclusion of men,” he says. “We’re drunk by two thirds women and one third men.

“We made an attempt 10 years ago to be unisex, and learned that wasn’t the way forward and that we need to be clear on our positioning. We’re not trying to be all things to all people.”

Brittain says the campaign is evidence of the company’s commitment to drive growth for the brand, with a double-digit increase in investment being put into Diet Coke this year.

Sales for Diet Coke struggled in 2014 according to IRI data, with value sales dropping by 2.9% to £442.4m in the year to 6 December and volume sales down 3.5% to 403.9 million.

Meanwhile, its competitors in the diet cola category saw growth in the same period.

Direct competitor Diet Pepsi rose 8.6% year on year to £83.3m with volume rising by 7.3% to 104.1 million, while zero-calorie variant Pepsi Max also saw growth, with a 9% sales lift to £209.6m and volume growth of 8.2% to 256.3 million.

Diet Coke’s sales growth also paled against sister-brand Coke Zero, which saw an 8.2% value sales growth to £93.4.

Richard Ford, food and drink analyst for Mintel, says the declining sales for the brand could be due to big campaigns from the likes of Pepsi Max and Coke Zero, which have created cut through in an environment where people are concerned about sugar in soft drinks by pushing the positioning of their zero calorie and no sugar content more clearly than Diet Coke has.

“Diet Coke also contains no calories and no sugar, but the use of the world diet doesn’t emphasise just how low the calorie and sugar content is,” Ford says.

He also says Coca-Cola’s portfolio of products for consumers with different priorities could be seen as confusing.

“If they do a good job of the marketing, they’ll be able to continue to differentiate Diet Coke from other products,” he says. “However, if the marketing isn’t strong people will be confused about what it offers that others doesn’t.”

The company launched a campaign last year to push Coke Zero, traditionally known as “bloke coke” in the UK, to a wider consumer group. 2014 also saw the launch of lower-calorie variant Coke Life which provides a more “natural” alternative, as it is sweetened with Stevia instead of sugar.

However, despite increasing variants in its portfolio, Brittain says Diet Coke is part of the “furniture” of the business, with the new campaign pushing the “no sugar, zero calories” messaging.

“Diet Coke is massive. It’s been around for over 30 years and has a very distinct personality and role to the consumer,” he says.

“It’s different than the approach we take on Coke Zero and Coke Life, which are much younger and still growing, with the number of drinkers increasing year on year. Diet Coke is a mature brand and has a loyal following.”

He says the company is committed to grow all of its light and low-calorie variants, but will continue to heavily invest in Diet Coke.

“It’s the right thing for us to be doing as a business,” he says. “We couldn’t grow the portfolio if Diet Coke wasn’t healthy.”

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