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Coca-Cola Life: The Start of a New Life?

Recently a woman was busy handing out green cans in the supermarket. From a distance it looked like the introduction of a new health drink. I got curious! When I got closer I saw that it was nothing less than the introduction of Coca-Cola Life – the Cola with ingredients of natural origin – in the Netherlands.

The pressure on Coca-Cola Company to go along with the trend of natural products requires little explanation. The soft drink category is in decline. At this time, Americans drink about 167 liters of soft drinks per year. This is a sharp decline from the 201 liters per person in 1998. Surprisingly, water once again has become America’s favorite drink. Up to 211 liters per person in 2013, an increase of 38% compared to 1998. At the same time, the worldwide market for organic food and beverages has grown enormously and it is expected that this year the US $ 100 billion limit will be exceeded.

It is therefore crystal clear that Coca-Cola must formulate a response to this trend. Yet, I cannot conclude otherwise that Coca-Cola Company has failed to create a brand-worthy match between the trend and the Coca-Cola brand.

On the trend but not on the brand
Coca-Cola represents energy, refreshment, joy and live positively. It is not about being healthy. To make a brand worthy connection with a trend, Coca-Cola Company must make sure this experience comes back in the answer on the trend. If you launch a new proposition, which Coca-Cola Company does, and then going to call it “Coca-Cola Life is our latest innovation within the Coca-Cola portfolio, sweetened with ingredients from natural origin and contains a third less sugar and calories’ , then you’re well on the trend but not on your brand. This is a missed opportunity.

Be fresh in nature
The brand image of Coca-Cola Life is very green. A green wooden crate with some plants, a few bottles of Life and in the background a haze of green grass. Very nice, but not for Coca-Cola, the brand that just about the real experience of energy, refreshment, joy, enjoy and live positively.

Red is the color of Cola
Coca-Cola Life is green and rationally that is right: green is the color of natural products. Emotionally, however, we know better: red belongs to the Coca-Cola brand experience and the cola category as a whole. Therefore you also find the color red on non Coca-Cola brands. The cans of Pepsi have some red, Walmart’s Sam’s Cola and the Freeway Cola of the German discount store Lidl are red. It seems to me unwise to let go of something so fundamental which is built by investing years in helping consumers making the association. To me, a much more brand-worthy experience would have been a red Coca-Cola Life can with hint of green.

Absolutely nothing beats Life
When a brand has the name Life it suggest that it is also good for your life, especially when it is reinforced by the green color that we all associate with healthy. But where does that leave all the other products? Does it not give an indirect warning to consumers that they are not good for your life?

This makes Coca-Cola ‘Life’ also an outsider in the Coca-Cola portfolio: all other Coca-Cola brands help consumers to make a choice based on taste or lifestyle. Think of Vanilla, Cherry, Zero, Coke and Caffeine-free. ‘Life’ does not help to make a choice on taste or lifestyle. A less comprehensive name that is in line with the brand would have made a better fit.

As a summary: it is great that Coca-Cola Company follows trends and capitalizes on it. Too bad they passed their strong brand totally. But hopefully also for Coca-Cola “Life can be full of surprises’ ….

Author: Michiel Maandag


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