NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 15 – You’ve seen the videos; sugar piled into a glass as the narrator informs you that it is the amount of sugar you consume when you down a bottle or can of that liquorice coloured soft drink: Coca-Cola.
It’s a concern that Coca-Cola as a company is not oblivious to hence the introduction of Coca-Cola Light perhaps better known as Diet Coke in 1982, Coca-Cola Zero in 2005 and Coca-Cola Life in 2013 as sugar-free alternatives.
They however come a far second, in terms of market share, to the original Coca-Cola which has been around for the last 130 years and is as likely to be consumed by the Queen of England as by a Maasai woman in the remote interior of Sub-Saharan Africa.
“You cannot buy a better Coca-Cola than your neighbour,” is how Chief Marketing Officer Marcos de Quinto puts it.
But as more and more awareness is created around the causal relationship between excessive sugar consumption and lifestyle conditions such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes, it’s become more and more imperative for Coca-Cola’s ‘healthier,’ alternatives to gain ground.
The marketing strategy Coca-Cola has employed up until now, simply hasn’t met its expectations and hence the decision to adopt a, ‘One Brand’ strategy; a strategy launched in Dubai over the weekend for its Eurasia and Africa markets.
At the launch, to demonstrate the need for the new strategy, de Quinto piled a miniature polar bear, camel and other teddy bears – to reflect diversity – onto a cocktail table with the original Coca-Cola. On another table across the way, he placed cans of Coca-Coca Light, Zero and Life then tried to carry all the teddy bears over. He dropped a few along the way.
His point being that by marketing the products separately, Coke was losing consumers along the way. “Great brands do not sub-brand. A Coke is a Coke is a Coke. We don’t do it with the different flavours of Fanta yet we have been doing it with Coca-Cola.”
De Quinto who took over as Coke CMO last year therefore seeks to present Coke Light, Zero and Life less as alternatives and more as variations of the original, “with the same great taste only less sugar.”
The question of whether or not the original and variations taste the same is debatable but with the launch of the ‘One Brand’ strategy they most certainly will be packaged alike in classic Coke red.
Currently Coke Light’s signature colour is silver, green for Coke Life and black for Coke Zero.
But while Coke’s variations may provide a solution to its sugar problem, new research shows that ‘sugar and calorie free’ does not necessarily translate to problem free.
Aspartame which is found in the highest quantities in diet drinks, for instance, has been charged with stunting neurological development in children.
But when put to task by Capital FM News, de Quinto was insistent that artificial sweeteners are not bad for you although the latest addition to the Coca Cola line, Life – advertised as having 35 fewer calories than, “other leading colas,” – is sweetened using natural sweeteners namely cane sugar and stevia leaf extract.