The move will also see the company evolve its “Open Happiness” strapline to “Choose Happiness” in Great Britain in an effort to enable consumers to make informed choices and suggest there is a Coca-Cola to suit every taste by more clearly communicating product differentiation.
The strategy comes after consumer research commissioned by the company showed that half of consumers don’t know that Coke Zero has no sugar and no calories, with many unclear about the different between Coke Zero and Diet Coke.
Bobby Brittain, GB Marketing Director for Coca-Cola, told Marketing Week that this lack of knowledge suggests the company’s efforts to build personality behind its brands has stunted consumers’ understanding of the products.
“We’ve failed to communicate clearly enough the product differentiation,” he says. “That’s a major wakeup call for us. We need to ensure that we are enabling consumers to make an informed choice.”
The move will not mean a drop in marketing investment, as the company claims it will increase investment both in the whole Coca-Cola portfolio and in each of its individual products.
However, it will eventually put an end to campaigns such as the newly launched “Regret Nothing” for Diet Coke or the iconic “Diet Coke Hunk” who has resurfaced time and time again, instead implementing communications which will focus on ingredient and product information rather than personality.
‘One Brand Strategy’ to unify Coca-Cola’s products
The company is titling its new platform the “One Brand Strategy”, which will focus on the brand idea of happiness and optimism and will roll out in May in Great Britain, Ireland, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Nordics and Spain.
“That one brand is Coca-Cola, which is the thing we will position and give meaning to, but underneath it will sit different product variants,” Brittain says. “Each of them is equal in the overall portfolio and won’t have a meaning attached to them. What we need to make sure is that consumers understand the choice that Coca-Cola is offering them.”
The platform will also involve new packaging which will roll out from now until May, with each variant given the same design and set of characteristics, such as the iconic Coca-Cola script, ribbon and layout.
“We’re moving to a much more unifying set of characteristics the brand shares,” Brittain says. “The different product characteristics are the things that will come to life for consumers in a much more straightforward way.”
The packaging will also bring back more presence of the iconic red colour, which Brittain says has been diminished over the years with new means of communicating Coca-Cola’s brands.
However, he says the move goes well beyond presentation.
“It goes to the very heart of the brand’s architecture,” he says. “We currently have four distinct brands which stand alone and are viewed with meaning. That’s one of the reasons why consumers don’t understand the product characteristics of something like Coke Zero.”
Sales for the company’s total cola variants were down 1.1% year on year to 31 January, with volume down 2.2%.
While Coca-Cola and Diet Coke were also in decline, Coke Zero saw sales growth of 7.9% year on year and volume growth of 2.8%.
Still, Brittain says Coca-Cola has four of the strongest pillars of any portfolio brand.
“We’re moving on from a position of strength to really maximise the choice that consumers have,” he says.
The move comes following the launch of a global campaign Sunday (1 March) starring Marilyn Monroe and Elvis in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the brand’s contour bottle.
The adverts for the campaign were unveiled at an investors’ conference in New York last Friday (20 February) and were described by Coca-Cola’s chief executive Muhtar Kent as an example of how the quality of its advertising is improving as a result of the reinvestment of savings made from tighter procurement processes and investment in “creating efficient and global campaigns.”