Discovering The Next Google Will Put The Fizz Back In Coke

Coca-Cola faces the same dilemma as oil-rich nationals in the Gulf. Sooner or later, they know, their liquid gold isn't going to be bringing in as much as it once did.

In the case of places such as Dubai, they are busy using oil revenue to build mega-cities to act as financial, media and tech hubs of the future. It's a smart move -- and it's one that Coca-Cola appears to be following.

The inconvenient truth for all fizzy, sugary drinks makers is that the public is largely wising up to their impact on health. By most estimates, the industry is in the middle of a decade in which more than a billion dollars worth of sales will be lost. It's very simple. Years of health education mean parents, and thus children, are reducing their intake. Even when Coca-Cola launched a mid-way stage between the full sugary version and its "zero" variant, the compromise didn't go down as well as anticipated with consumers.

In the past, the answer would have been simple. If they're not drinking it at home, let's open up new markets. Trouble is, they've already done that. The world has shrunk for Coca-Cola.

They can also try to market their way out of it, but sponsoring sports and launching programmes to encourage people to be more active but these initiatives just looks a little odd when coming from an industry that many would blame for the obesity crisis. It can carry on sponsoring the Fifa World Cup, but that still only gives a minor brand awareness "bump" compared to Pepsi, which is not a sponsor, according to YouGov research. With online marketing, it's much easier now for non-sponsors to jump on the bandwagon and be associated with an event that has cost a rival hundreds of millions of pounds to be a part of.

So it would appear that Coca-Cola is wisely keeping its options open beyond selling sugary, fizzy drinks. The launch of a global network of technology start-ups looks to make a lot of sense.

There are individuals who have made their fortunes through carbonated drinks who are active investors in start-ups already, and so it makes sense that Coca-Cola should, as a company, help launch new tech ideas. 

There are three obvious advantages. First, it makes the brand look fresher to be out there discovering the next Google rather than just selling the same old drinks. It also gives the company a great insight into emerging trends and will let it try out new capabilities first. Finally, if it does find the next Google -- or a handful of companies that add up to be the equivalent of the next Google -- that would represent a great deal of shareholder satisfaction.

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