Showing posts with label Coca-Cola. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Coca-Cola. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 16

Advertising Obesity: Coca-Cola Has The Skinny

Imagine how ridiculous it would have been for cigarette companies to run advertisements in the 1990s attempting to offset smoking with a few quick hits on an oxygen tank. And then consider the impenitence of the latest Coca-Cola advertisement that attempts to cure obesity by suggesting you can still have a Coke and smile, provided you take a few quick laps around the block.
The two-minute commercial created by Coca-Cola is a nightmare. At best, it's a two-minute segment that highlights how Coca-Cola has worked diligently to undo the damage that drove its profit margin.

The spot touts how the company has reduced the average calories per serving of its beverage by 22 percent (mostly by divesting into non-soft drinks like juice and water), shrunk serving sizes, placed calorie counts on the front of containers, reduced beverage calories in schools by 90 percent (mostly by dropping soft drinks from the offering), developed a strategic philanthropy plan that helps fund physical fitness programs for young people, and invested in innovative sciences to create new sweeteners.

The commercial wraps this all up by reminding everyone they get calories from other places beyond their favorite fizzy elixirs — which means that you should feel guilt about those extra inches around your waistline. Or, in other words, if overweight people would just work out, then companies like Coca-Cola wouldn't be thrown under the bus by New York nanny Bloomberg. Here it is...

This commercial is one of the biggest anti-brand statements ever put out by Coca-Cola. It literally strips away any ounce of happiness that once made its flagship product an undisputed brand champ and replaces it with a public relations spin that doesn't work. It admits guilt and attempts to share some of it.

The nine rules of advertising needs another rule. Be the real thing, only.

There is something seriously wrong with this country, and corporate marketers aren't making it better. Too many companies fall prey to the nation's escalating overindulgence in national guilt and actually feed it with apologetic advertising. Coca-Cola isn't the only one, but it does represent a trend.

If you have looked at messaging trends today, you will discover that people ought to feel guilty if they cannot sustain themselves OR become too successful. People ought to feel guilty if they are too skinny OR too heavy. People ought to feel guilty if they aren't willing to help people in need by raising taxes OR if they vote for spending that increases the national debt. People ought to feel guilty if they are too pious to pop a can of Coke OR if they drink more than a thumbnail of the bubbly caramel substance.

There is no win. This is a country that not only feels guilty about everything but makes demands that everyone who doesn't feel equally miserable receive punishments. This weird guilt sickness has become so prevalent in our society, people don't even feel guilty for what they do, they feel guilty about what other people do. National obesity is but one example, and it's a shame to see one of the few holdout companies fall for it.

The new two-minute spot marks the end of an era.

Coca-Cola doesn't have anything to apologize for. Its flagship product is a surgary fizzy drink that many people enjoy. Almost all of them received the memo that too much of a good thing is bad thing, which is why drinking a 12-pack isn't such a good idea. And yet, more and more people feel so incredibly guilty about those who are weak willed that they demand we legislate how much soft drink everyone can purchase and consume regardless of their own ability to moderate.

Coca-Cola isn't the problem. The lack of willpower of some and guilt of many is the problem. 

And apparently, this lack of willpower and inflated sense of guilt is beginning to rub off on advertisers too. They sell products of indulgence and then feel guilty about it when the public falls out of love with them because somebody overindulged. At the same time, they don't want to accept responsibility for it so the consumer has to share in it.

All of this misses the point. The real magic of Coca-Cola as a product is that for five to 30 seconds a swig, whomever is drinking it can forget about their troubles and briefly enjoy a taste bud tickle followed up by a caffeine buzz. What's wrong with that? Product promise. Product delivered.

This new spot, on the other hand, is nothing more than a buzz kill because it reminds the consumer that every 5- to 30-second swig carries consequences not only for them, but also for the nation. Worse, they cannot even save themselves or anybody else from this indulgence because anything else they enjoy with calories is evil too, along with a lifestyle that includes watching too much television news that is so depressing that they can't possibly motivate themselves off the couch. I dunno about you, but this realization kind of kills any warm and fuzzy feeling I might had about a brand and that's ironic.

It's ironic because I don't drink Coca-Cola unless it is mixed up in the occasional stiff drink, but I have always felt good about the brand. It's very American, representative of a small indulgence that is within easy reach of anyone. How dour life would be without it. How dour it's becoming with all this guilt.

Wing nut advocacy campaigns aren't the only communication programs that can shape the nation. Companies can help shape them too. Their primary responsibility is to deliver a brand promise and, assuming they do that well, then enjoy financial success and make contributions to communities in the form of taxes, employment, investment returns, and charitable contributions (maybe even to curb obesity) so that other people don't have to pay as much in taxes. Anything else could fall flat.

Wednesday, May 4

Marketing Public Relations: Truvia

SteviaOn the heels of becoming the number two sugar substitute in America, with a 12.8 percent share of the retail sugar substitute category, Truvia released a "study" confirming that "U.S. moms are already buying (or interested in buying) products made with the Truvia® brand for the whole family, including their kids."

Yes, there is some oddity in the language. But let's lay the groundwork.

The "study" was a survey (conducted by the company) of 2,417 primary grocery shoppers, U.S. moms ages 18-59 with children ages 1-18 in the household. It was fielded in October 2010. According to the findings:

When moms were asked about potential products that could be made with the Truvia® brand in categories such as dairy, ready-to-eat cereal, confections, and beverages, the findings were similar across all product categories (sic):

• Half to two-thirds of moms who are current product purchasers in these categories are interested in products made with the Truvia® brand.
• These moms also indicated they would purchase these products for the entire family, including the kids. 90% of moms would purchase juice drinks and 89% would purchase ready-to-eat cereal made with the Truvia® brand for their kids.
• Even moms who currently don't buy products in certain categories were interested in buying products made with the Truvia® brand and said they would buy these products for the entire family.

The intent of a dual-pupose release and why they don't always work.

Since being introduced to the market, Truvia faced some skepticism as a sweetener because of the chemistry and unconfirmed reports that the plants are genetically modified.

In general, genetically modified foods are accepted in the United States more than most countries in the world. But what stands out about this one, is the amount of attention being given to the side effects. (Proponents argue that it is on par with any other food allergies typical in a large public.)

Whether there is any substance to either claim is up to science to decide. My interest lies in whether the public relations efforts of Truvia are on par or have they turned a corner. In this case, the story is that Truvia has surpassed Merisant's Equal® (aspartame) for the past 16 months and the 52-year-old brand Cumberland's Sweet'N Low® for the past 12 weeks. (Source: ACNielsen Food/Drug/Mass+Wal-Mart, 4 weeks ending 3/19/11.)

So, why would Truvia mar the facts with vague pullouts from a survey, further complicating the communication by making statements such as "half to two-thirds?" They obviously know what the numbers are. They just didn't release them. If anything, the release makes them more suspect because the public relations and marketing teams are either beating the numbers into submission or attempting to oversell the study.

Five tips for releasing a study, especially without a third party.

• Always include the raw numbers. While it's generally acceptable to round in the release (almost half, more than half, etc.), the difference between roughly 1,200 and 2,000 of 2,400 is a huge discrepancy.
• Always include some methodology. In this case, giving the the readers some indication of the questions asked and/or whether or not these mothers had knowledge of the possible side effects would be helpful.
• Avoid vagueness. According to the writing, the company is bullish that "even" moms who don't buy certain products (dairy, cereal, confections, or beverages) are interested in the product.
• Make it clear that the full study is available; include a direct link to the study where possible. In this case the company merely pointed to the website, which did not include the release along with its listings.
• Never oversell a study. If the facts from the study are solid, let the journalists draw their own conclusions, keeping any "guidance" confined to the quotes. True, understaffed publications aren't likely to investigate nowadays but it still pays to pretend they might.

The entire release is bizarre, but no more bizarre than the entire story revolving around Truvia. There are two odd story tracks revolving around the slick award-winning campaign.

TruviaThe first is that Truvia is a success story. Truvia rebiana is already used as an ingredient in over 30 food and beverage products today, including Glaceau Vitaminwater Zero, YoCrunch 100 Calorie Packs, Kraft Crystal Light Pure, and Minute Maid Premium Pomegranate Tea. It also seems the release was embargoed as the company had pitched several publications (without the study), with Fast Company picking it up. (Truvia's Test: Can Diet Sweeteners Go Natural?) Along with this success story is the possible conspiracy theory of why the primary plant was banned from the U.S.

And then there is the other story. While the markers of Truvia have made efforts to become more transparent, it is manufactured by Cargill, which made the toxic ten list in 2008 despite some heavy-handed greenwashing on the Truvia site (the company pledges to make it better by 25 to 50 percent by 2015). Of course, it is also odd the FDA had no interest in allowing Truvia in the U.S. market until it teamed with Coca-Cola.

The net sum is that Truvia has had to participate in significant public relations efforts since deciding to make a play for the U.S. market. It has obviously won many of those battles, even if the FDA hasn't "approved" the product (it filed a letter of no opposition to rebiana, which are the leaves of the banned stevia plant). So why would it punt with an ill-conceived press release?

The only plausible answer is that the company is feeling some push back after some early success in the market. Specifically, some manufacturers aren't ready to recreate their recipes with Truvia, and the excuse they kick back at Cargill is that moms haven't approved it nor are they demanding it. And, despite the spinning, the survey seems to confirm it.

Tuesday, February 23

Sharing Happiness: Coca-Cola

By now, you may have heard about the viral video, Coca-Cola "Happiness Machine," on YouTube that generated 1.5 million views in about a month. Some pros keep asking me how they hit 1.5 million views, but they're asking the wrong question.

Even reading the write up by Christine Kent doesn't tell the full story. Atlanta-based interactive agency Definition 6 shares its tactical and technical goals, and reveals that neither Definition 6 nor Coca-Cola pushed the production with a publicity campaign (an all-too-tempting component of anxious agencies and clients). They let their considerable fan base find the video and share it on their own.

Coca-Cola's "Happiness Machine" Celebrates The Brand Relationship.

The video works. It doesn't focus exclusively on the product (it even shares non-Coke products). It doesn't center on customers or demographic examples (as many social media proponents claim). Instead, it focuses on the relationship between the product and the customers, and what happens when the two come together, underscored by the social aspects — sharing Coke — between friends in a setting where spontaneity is a welcome distraction.

Two weeks ago, I shared a presentation that discusses the elements of great writing, with an emphasis on how communication needs to be accurate, clear, concise, human, and conspicuous. The Coca-Cola video hits all of these elements, effortlessly, without the need for a script beyond the concept. It also captures many of the elements that make up news — stories that people need to share.

Sure, not every company packs the power of the Coca-Cola brand nor is every brand relationship a celebration. But that is part of crafting the right message for the right audience. You have to consider every strength that can be conveyed within the context of a single memorable message.

Running two minutes in length, the Coca-Cola video does something else too. It demonstrates that advertising can easily adapt to an online environment. It might require thinking different, but that is part of the profession. Virtually every wildly successful advertisement in history broke more conventions than they followed. And that's not by accident.

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Wednesday, August 8

Driving Brand: McDonald's Corporation

It seems Coca-Cola has some proven company in breaking through the brand clutter. McDonald's, with more than 30,000 local restaurants serving 52 million people in more than 100 countries each day, has struck the neuroscience nerve.

Carrots, milk, and apple juice all taste better to preschoolers, ages 3-5, when they are wrapped in packaging that sports one of the most familiar brands in the world. At least that is what they found in San Mateo County, Calif. when 63 children were given the same foods. The only difference was the wrapper.

The impact is amazing, but it is the age at which this brand embeds itself that is extraordinary (and perhaps a little bit frightening). The research appeared in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine and funded by Stanford and the Robert Wood Foundation and it was picked up by the Associated Press yesterday.

In a prior experiment, the researchers demonstrated that even a single exposure to a television advertisement affected preschool children's brand preferences. This study found that the frequency of eating at McDonald's was not the only influencer. The number of television sets in the household also played a factor.

This doesn’t surprise me. All of us, but children in particular, respond to visual and audio stimulus as if it were real whether we admit it or not. In other words, what we see on television has an equal chance to impact our decisions on a subconscious, if not conscious, level (assuming the writers and producers know what they are doing).

Founder Ray Kroc knew what he was doing. He not only raised the bar on the principles of quick service standardization, but also forever linked the idea (if not the practice) of quality, cleanliness, service, and value to McDonald’s name.

“If you work just for money, you'll never make it, but if you love what you're doing and you always put the customer first, success will be yours.” — Ray Kroc

Although some may argue not all local franchise owners measure up to Kroc’s vision, it doesn’t matter. McDonald's spends more than $1 billion dollars in advertising per year. That’s a whole lot of positive impressions.

Fun fact: Our first regional television script was written for McDonald’s in the early 1990s. It was part of a regional campaign to determine which of the “Arch” burgers would be introduced nationwide. While the “Arch Deluxe” won, the “California Deluxe” beat out Big Macs in some markets. McDonald’s has one of the strictest shot standards in the quick service industry; no one is allowed to actually “eat and chew” food on camera.


Wednesday, July 25

Branding Champ: Coca-Cola

For the last several years, when I ask people to think about a successful brand, I often ask them to think of Coca-Cola because, well, Coke is it. I don’t even have to drink it to appreciate why Coca-Cola has risen to the top of Harris Interactive’s “Best Brand” poll.

When Ron Kalb, associate director of public relations for R&R Partners, spoke to my class earlier this year, he shared what I thought was one of the most significant studies on branding I had ever seen, which underpins part of the “Fragile Brand Theory” that I have been working on for a few months. The study, conducted by Baylor College of Medicine a few years ago, showed the huge effect that the Coke label had on brain activity related to the control of actions, the drudging up of memories, and things that involve self-image.

The results were nothing less than amazing to me. When Coke and Pepsi were presented to participants in a blind test, their brains did not respond. When Pepsi was presented with its label, their brains did not respond. When Coke or Pepsi was presented with the Coke label, bingo, their brains lit up. Wow! It seems Kalb really did find the perfect quote to reinforce this concept in his presentation …

“Brand is the relationship between a product and its customer.” — Phil Dusenberry, chairman of BBDO Worldwide

Sure, when I talk about it, I tend to go a bit further to conclude brand is the relationship between a product and everyone (customers or not). But both ideas and the concept basically demonstrate that brand is not the product. Brand exists in the world of perception.

Another reason I like the Coke brand so much is because it provides an excellent example of something else I’ve discussed. The consistency of behaviors, actions, or messages can reinforce or detract from the brand. And, the closer a perception is to reality, the easier it is maintain. Coke is beautifully consistent and its messages continually reinforce its brand and reality.

This is true, so much so, that if you walk into a store and find one damaged can of Coke, you are likely to conclude the grocery store clerks are responsible. Yet, if you purchase a bag of Fritos and a tiny pinhole or other damage has allowed the chips to become stale, you are likely to conclude something happened on the Frito-Lay production line. Why is this? Brand.

The same can be said about the concept of polls. In the AdvertisingAge article that I’m about to link to, Matthew Creamer asks what the whole Best Brand poll really means. Robert Fronk, senior VP for Harris' brand and strategy consulting group, is wonderfully honest about it.

"Some of these polls are done for newsmaker purposes, as you know," he said. "Our PR firms love these quick little things to be able to work with."

And so do journalists. And so do bloggers. In some ways, no matter what the methodology is, we are preconditioned to give polls and surveys more validity. When it comes from Harris Interactive, even more so. In fact, I frequently raise an eyebrow when the methodology seems flawed, the number or respondents seems light, or someone assumes a poll does much better than provide a snapshot at the moment, assuming you have the right demographic mix.

In this case, I have to agree with Fronk’s assessment that on one hand, a one-question poll is not going to help a brand marketer. On the other hand, the one-question poll doesn’t diminish the fact that certain companies come to mind.

Sony, for instance, which held the top spot for the last seven years, dropped to No. 2. Does this mean Sony is doing something wrong? Probably not. Personally, I like Creamer’s take on it. He correctly attributes it to Apple’s ability to dominate the portable music-player category. Dell, which had been in the second spot last year, drops two spots to No. 4 this year. Maybe it has to do with their need for a new advertising campaign.

Hey, that was fast. It seems Michael Dell wasn’t joking when he said he wanted to reboot the Dell brand.


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