Coca-Cola Gathers Its Colas In A Group Hug

In what a Coca-Cola Co. blog post terms “a significant shift in its marketing strategy,” the soft drink has unified all of its cola brands under a “Taste the Feeling” global campaign, ending the seven-year run of “Open Happiness.”

“We are reinforcing that Coca-Cola is for everybody,” CMO Marcus de Quinto said at a media event in Paris. “Coca-Cola is one brand with different variants, all of which share the same values and visual iconography. People want their Coca-Cola in different ways, but whichever one they want, they want a Coca-Cola brand with great taste and refreshment."

People also want to be told tales, of course, and the first batch of executions “offer intimate glimpses into stories, feelings and moments people share while enjoying Coca-Cola,” writes Jay Moye for the “Coca-Cola Journey” blog. “At the close of each spot, the family of Coca-Cola products unite under the iconic red Coca-Cola disc.”



Anthem,” which the company’s bills as its lead spot, “features a series of vignettes that capture life’s everyday moments — such as ice-skating and hanging out with friends, a first date, a first kiss, and a first love.” 

Another spot, “Brotherly Love,” looks more intimately at a single relationship with series of vignettes where a big brother does all those things that a taunting big bro does — including chasing away a bunch of bullies — with a Coke (or Coke Zero) usually near at hand.  

Under Pressure” looks at those moments a teen might face that call for a “pause and refresh.” 

There is, of course, that elephant at the soda fountain. As the AP’s lede points out, the Atlanta-based soft drink maker is “under pressure as many people look to cut back on sugary drinks.” But, de Quinto tells the wire service in a phone interview, “it didn't matter whether original Coke ends up being just 20% of sales over time.”

Even the hometown Atlanta Journal Constitution’s J. Scott Trubey kicks off with the “amid global concerns about obesity and some missteps surrounding its support of a controversial nutritional group …”

So, indeed, “Coke’s biggest challenge is to reverse the rising tide of critics who blame sugary sodas for helping to fuel obesity, diabetes and tooth decay,” as Mike Esterl and Suzanne Vranica observe in the Wall Street Journal. “The World Health Organization recommends keeping added sugars to below 10% of daily calories — less than in a 20-ounce bottle of regular soda.” 

Esterl and Vranica also report “Americans also have been turning their backs on zero-calorie sodas such as Diet Coke because of concerns about artificial sweeteners, even though the Food and Drug Administration and other health authorities say such sweeteners are safe.

Ad Age’s E.J. Schulz scored a beat on the story in an interview with de Quinto that was conducted before he left for Paris and was published yesterday morning before the announcement. The CMO “spoke passionately about taking Coke in a new, more humble direction,” Schultz writes.

Four agencies have a lead role on “Taste the Feeling”: Ogilvy New York, Sra. Rushmore of Madrid, Santo of Buenos Aires and Mercado-McCann of Argentina, with the initial round of work including 10 TV ads, as well as digital, print, out-of-home and shopper marketing, Schultz reports. 

Gawker’s Hamilton Nolan was a tad skeptical of Schultz’ “heart-rending personal interview with … the CMO who is overseeing this difficult and transformative time in the history of Coca-Cola Sloganeering. Keep a box of Kleenex-brand tissues nearby,” Nolan writes, “as you read this account of De Quinto delving deep into the emotional rationale for the new approach to marketing this particular variety of brown sugar water.”

Adweek’s Tim Nudd collects some of the new print and out-of-home ads. “They were shot by fashion photographers Guy Aroch and Nacho Ricci and use a ‘Norman Rockwell meets Instagram’ visual style to capture authentic, unscripted moments in a contemporary way, says Rodolfo Echeverria, Coke's vp of global creative, connections and digital,” Nudd writes. 

It will be interesting to see just how much equity brand Coca-Cola has across its products over time. Stories don’t always have to be believable to connect with the target — ice-skating, Coke-swigging Polar Bears anyone? — but they do have to be part of the zeitgeist, which is tending toward mass-produced “craft” or the likes of kombucha.

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