Diet Coke has changed its logo on cans, replacing the traditional Diet Coke script with a very large and prominent DK label.
This is creating quite a stir, evoking memories of “New Coke” for many people. Messing with Coke is like messing with a country’s flag -- it’s a part of people’s cultural identity and they don’t take lightly to changes they don’t agree with.
In addition, popular soft drink branding and marketing is an investment of hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Any change in branding diminishes prior investment, and requires significant future commitment and additional investment. These changes aren’t done lightly, as Pepsi has discovered with Pepsi falling to the number 3 spot behind Coke and Diet Coke in soft drink market share.
That said, Diet Coke’s change seems very promising; however, its global success will depend on it adhering to the best practices for branding or logo changes.
1. Understand your current brand position, your intended brand position, and the advantages and risks of making a change
In Diet Coke’s case, Diet Coke isn’t Coke. It’s a separate brand that suffers from a lack of emotional identity. It’s the leading soft drink that doesn’t have sugar. Most other branding is lost in the shadow of Coke.
The Diet Coke can logo change follows a highly targeted branding exercise to focus on fashion as the core identity of Diet Coke. This has been a successful strategy over the last several years, and as a result, changing the logo to a fashion-oriented design looks promising.
It also helps to separate Diet Coke cans from Coke, more clearly creating its own position in the market. If successful, it’s entirely possible that Diet Coke will embrace the logo for bottles and other branding as well. Once successful, we could see the Diet Coke brand disappear, replaced by the DK brand.
Without having the cultural identity of regular Coke, there is little consumer downside to a logo or branding change, and the risk of a backlash is minimal. Indeed, having a clearer, independent brand image should be refreshing for most Diet Coke fans.
2. Test your changes in real markets (after all, focus groups approved New Coke)
The Diet Coke new branding rollout was well-managed. Promotional campaigns used the new design, assessed feedback from the campaign, and launched the new design in specific regions for more feedback and validation.
Having tested the change and seen a sustained positive response coupled with a compelling brand analysis for the change makes the can rebrand seem like a great change, with only one major step remaining.
3. Roll out your changes globally across all channels
Diet Coke is a global brand with dozens of local marketing channels in dozens of languages. As a result, any global campaign requires an incredible amount of creative work, including adaptations for local markets and the important task of distribution to local marketing endpoints.
Changing the logo without changing the creative work to leverage the new design would reduce the impact of the change. The entire sense of fashion and sophistication could be lost with older creative work.
Diet Coke has done a textbook job of changing and validating its brand position. The can logo change has been similarly tested and validated. However, for the rollout of the change, there is no textbook -- this scale of global marketing and branding has just emerged as practical in the last few years. It will be interesting to see how well Diet Coke’s marketing teams can handle the logistics of this from a global brand perspective. Shipping hard-drives of creative materials from agency to agency just won’t cut it for a truly global launch approach.