Coke’s GB marketing boss on why it’s overhauling its brand strategy

Coca-Cola’s new “One Brand” strategy looks to place the company’s cola product under the Coca-Cola brand umbrella and remove individual branding. While communications will present all four products together for the first time and will come both at a Coca-Cola brand level and at a variant level, they will push the taste and characteristics of each product rather than their personality. Marketing Week caught up with Bobby Brittain, GB Marketing Director for Coca-Cola, to chat about how the company will drive growth and create clarity within its new platform.

Q. What’s new with the “One Brand” strategy?

This is a new business model and a new way of marketing Coca-Cola. We’re going to evolve the way that Coca-Cola as a brand presents itself to consumers.

We’re going to what we call the One Brand Strategy, and that one brand is Coca-Cola but underneath that brand will sit different product variants.

Each of them will be equal in the overall portfolio, and what we need to make sure is that consumers understand the choice that Coca-Cola is offering them.

Coca-Cola is the thing that we will position and give meaning to. Each of the four variants, the products that underpin that, won’t have a story or a personality applied to them.

Q. Why is now the right time to make the shift?

We tested with our consumers. 50% of people who are drinking Coke Zero don’t know that it doesn’t have any calories. We failed to communicate clearly enough the product differentiation – the fact that it has no sugar and no calories. That’s quite a major wakeup call for us. We need to ensure that we are enabling consumers to make an informed choice.

We have product innovation credentials, and we have packaging innovation credentials with the contour bottle, and we’re now leveraging some of those through the way we’re about to change the strategy and the way we go through to market.

Q. Will all advertising and identity building now revolve around the whole Coca-Cola brand, or will individual variants still see their own advertising?

The Coca-Cola brand will absolutely be viewed with meaning. We will continue to do that on a larger scale than we have in the past. We will also talk about each of the four products in terms of creating awareness, but we’re not going to tip personality into them. There’s no James Bond or story that goes along with them. What we’ll be telling consumers is what they taste like and their characteristics – whether they have sugar or not.

Q. Will all future communications showcase each variant equally?

While all four products will be present in the company’s new advertising, the main product chosen to be “heroed” in communications will differ, particularly in terms of sponsorship.

In the past we have sponsored sporting events with Coca-Cola, which will continue to be associated with major sporting events and major moments, but what this strategy enables us to do is “Hero Zero”.

For example, Coke Zero will be most prominent product in our communication and association with the Rugby World Cup later this year.

Q. What do you hope to gain through this strategy in terms of sales?

Moving forward, the new platform will result in strong growth in our flagship European market, Great Britain. We also hope it will grow sales from our lower or no calorie variants.

It is our intention by 2020 to have half of our Coca-Cola trademark sales from lower and no calories. Those three variants will be responsible for half the portfolio. We’re in the low 40s now, so it’s not completely out of the question.

We’re going to increase the amount of investment that we make in the Coca-Cola brand as a whole and the investment we make in the individual products will also increase, which will absolutely drive interest from consumers. They will be more informed about the choices that they’re making and more intentional about the purchases they make, which we know will drive growth.

Q. How will the model affect product innovation moving forward?

The model enables us to innovate into the future without confusing the consumer or eroding the platform, and do it in a way that doesn’t depend on us spending a fortune in creating a new entity every time. It’s much more flexible in terms of accommodating product manifestations.