Coca-Cola and the Third Alternative.

So what do people want the most out of life? If one said “happiness,” many others would agree, for sure. In 2009, Coca-Cola rolled out its Open Happiness campaign. Including the dispensation of the soda pop classic Coke vending machines, known as Happiness machines, also dished out freebies like sandwiches, flowers, and pizzas. In one instance a Happiness machine in Singapore required a hug for it to give a reward while one in Belgium required dancing to activate the giveaway.1

What does this say about marketing if a major brand like Coke expects its consumers to hug a machine? Coke wants to bring us happiness in return for our love. Like any marketing strategy it relies upon the transaction: a transference not only of our money but our emotion. The sense of reward attached to the Open Happiness campaign, in which Coke rewards its consumers for their consumer choice, brings about brand loyalty where people manufacture their consent to buy Coke over and above any alternative in the future.

With advent of social media, Coca-Cola generated more goodwill towards the brand by making video footage available on YouTube that went viral to millions. If we discuss any notion of consent with regards to the consumer we can view this spectacle as somewhat democratic. The consent of many contributes to a “critical mass” effect whereby Coke creates, or should we say effects, an entire consciousness of subscription. If Coke gives the people what they want then people vote Coke. Democratic principles go hand-in-hand with the principles of capitalism because of this right to choose.

One of Coke’s most noteworthy campaigns Share A Coke gleaned a massive global response for the brand resulting in a 7% increase in sales from its inception in 2011. The media surrounding this campaign created impressions that rose to over 18 million.2 This idea involved personalizing the Coke experience and direct audience participation came about through the consumer opportunity to order a Coke bottle with a name attached to it. “{T}raffic on the Coke Facebook site increased by 870%, with ‘likes’ growing by 39%.”3

The Share A Coke campaign which reached millions through the use of people's names, penetrating the idiocosm of the consumer.

The Share A Coke campaign which reached millions through the use of people’s names, penetrating the idiocosm of the consumer.

Brand identity occupies the domain of the idiocosm: that is to say that a brand can and does, effectively, communicate to the very psychology that underpins our own verbal communication. And what better way to tap into that potential than to market to us directly by name? Not only did the Share A Coke campaign achieve this remarkably well but it also took advantage of simple human social relations. “Share a Coke with Daniel,” not only appealed to Daniel to subscribe to the campaign and enjoy the product but it also appealed to network of human relations that belonged to Daniel. Like the happiness example we looked at above, Coke went to the next level to examine the theme of friendships and how a brand could take exploit that as a theme and gain entry even into the psyche of our social circle.

The simplicity of a personalized name appearing on the side of a Coke bottle had predictably good ramifications for the extension of social media coverage, the target audience doing a lot of the work themselves. Daniel takes a photograph of his Coke bottle that features his name on the side so that Daniel can “share” the novelty of his personality through the brand image on all of Daniel’s social media platforms. Ultimate consent manufactured. People just did it. It goes without saying then that the best marketing campaigns work with this kind of assumption that inclusivity can reach people more effectively. People want to share their worlds with each other and what unites comes from what we see as popular. In this case, the Coca-Cola culture.

The contradiction in terms slogan “just add Zero,” formed part of the recent relaunch campaign of Coca-Cola’s Zero brand. It built upon the aspect of friendships that featured in the Share campaign and it looked at increasing its reach through the notion of multiplication. The slogan “zero changes everything,” implies that by simply adding the number 0 as a suffix it increased value by a factor of ten.

The television advertising campaign, that Coca-Cola aired on 13 January 2014, wants us to believe that if we add a Coke Zero to our experience then we go from sharing our experience of ourselves to experiencing it tenfold with 10 others. Speed, a notion we can associate with a thrill, also features in the advertisement with the same suggestion, that if we add Coke Zero we go from 10 KM/H to 100 KM/H thereby increasing our thrill. The Zero in this particular brand of Coke alludes to it not containing any sugar which may seem like somewhat of a paradox: surely regular Coke’s combination of sugar and caffeine would increase the “speed” associated with drinking the product, but this is neatly left out. Instead, Coke Zero aims to increase your perception of everything all by adding all but nothing. Absolute naught. How queer! But two sister multiply to twenty of their friends, a party of an hundred multiplies to a festival of one thousand.4 This shows us that Coke’s reach always increases through advertising and a successful campaign in branding. The executives, art directors, and copywriters know this well already so they work on the strength of the awareness of Coke’s reach and marry this to the contemporary effects of social media’s ability to make something like Coke Zero spike by going viral.

Coke Zero came about in 2006 but since then its rise in popularity makes it “the second best-selling brand in many markets … in the soft drinks category.”5 By relauching an ad campaign Coca-Cola reintroduce the brand image in order to place it at the forefront of the mind of the consumer. The cyclical nature of advertisement investment by Coca-Cola reminds us that, even though we have consumer choice, we can choose Coke. (Despite vying for market share where they can outbid Coca-Cola in distribution rights Pepsi seems much less of an alternative to the dominant Coke. “What’ll you have?” asks the waiter. “Coke,” replies the consumer. “Is Pepsi OK?” responds the waiter. “Sure,” replies the consumer, but Pepsi as an alternative to Coke comes across as merely “OK.”)

In advertising, we notice the visual imagery the most, if not on a subtle level then perhaps on a subliminal level. The symbol lives in the realm of the archetypes. The infamous psychoanalyst Carl Jung tell us that: “The archetypes are the great decisive forces, they bring about the real events … the archetypal images decide the fate of man.”6 Coke Zero uses the symbol of a red circle. The circle evokes the primal, a simplicity, and a wholeness or completeness, all of which we can recognize for what it evokes. Coke uses this recognition pattern in association with its Zero brand, the circle also representing the factor of the number. Since the circle dates back to our furthest conceptions of symbols, when used in advertisement visual imagery to create a brand image, it lives in the archetypal world, floating around in our collective unconscious just waiting for recognition. After the fashion of our imagination. The archetypes “arise from unconscious instincts that governed our behavior long before civilization papered over and obscured them, and they therefore teach us about what it means to be human on the deepest level.”7 So even a simple representation such as a red circle can affect consumer behavior, Coca-Cola relying on the symbol’s recognizability, as opposed to its obscurity, which reaches to deepest levels of our psyche.

Brid Drohan-Stewart, marketing activation director for Coca-Cola in Great Britain, says that their advertising platform “Just Add Zero,” goes beyond mere sloganeering and turns into what he refers to as a “life philosophy.”8 What this man means when he says this relates to Coke’s aspirations to fuse their brand into peoples way of life, making it a lifestyle choice. Sure, you can choose what you buy, but why merely buy when you can participate in a lifestyle? Coca-Cola markets this lifestyle as “adventurous” and refers to it as a philosophy because it strikes a common ground with people who want to maximize their lifestyle whilst at the same time not compromising it since they can choose the healthier option to regular Coke.9

The Third Alternative

Multinationals like Coca-Cola yield such a large turnover that they can afford to utilize funds to create these kinds of vast marketing campaigns. The small, independent brands largely rely on word-of-mouth, or press coverage, or even promotion through association to other independent retailers who can stock or sell their product.

If companies like Coca-Cola strategically reintroduce their brands with new campaigns tailored to coincide with new trends that arise within their target audience then how can the smaller companies that offer a refreshing alternative compete for visibility? Botanical brewing company Fentimans do this by appealing to your curiosity. Curiosity increases visibility more subtly, but it does do the trick and creates a brand image for their Curiosity Cola labelled drink that delivers a unique flavor in the same way that Coke does. After all, consumer taste plays a major part in consumer choice. Fentimans rely on this notion of “taste” when it comes to reaching their target audience. Naturally, we imply a double entendre when we use the signifier “taste.” Fentimans cannot reward its consumers in the same way that Coke’s Happiness machines can but those who opt for Fentimans Curiosity Cola (whether out of curiosity or not!) experience the purchase of taste, in both senses of the word, the unique, botanically brewed flavor as well as the recognition of choosing an upmarket brand that contributes to an ethical cause.

Fentimans appeal to the consumer's "curiosity," in order to lure them in to trying the alternative.  The brand also uses the leitmotif of "yesteryear" to evoke an image of the traditional, effecting the time-honoured, loved, and trusted.

Fentimans appeal to the consumer’s “curiosity,” in order to lure them in to trying the alternative. The brand also uses the leitmotif of “yesteryear” to evoke an image of the traditional, effecting the time-honoured, loved, and trusted.

Through contributing to an ethical cause by opting for Fentimans Curiosity Cola over Coca-Cola and choosing a recipe comprising more natural and sustainable ingredients than Coca-Cola meant that the Fentimans brand, Curiosity Cola in particular, achieved publicity from the more left-of-centre press such as The Guardian newspaper who labelled it “{t}he world’s best cola.”10 Fentimans describe their Curiosity Cola in the following terms: “This curiously invigorating recreation of colas from yesteryear is made using infusions of the finest herbal ingredients.”11 We can pick out two key things concerning Fentimans brand image strategy here: 1) yesteryear. While Coke modernize to move with the times and constantly reinvent their brand image to appeal to younger and younger audiences, Fentimans choose to stick with tradition, emphasized by their company slogan “faithful to the originals”12. Fentimans want us to see their product in the same way that they conceived it in the beginning, est’d as a “mom and pop” operation in 1905 which takes us back to an image of what the culture surrounding soda pop looked like in the early twentieth century; 2) its botanical brewing process. As consumers, Fentimans allow us to consent to choosing the hallmark of the botanical brewing process. On the product description page of their website Fentimans show absolute transparency with regards to their product by listing the ingredients and nutritional information as pertinent to the appreciation of their drinks’ consumption. Transparency fosters a relationship of trust between consumer and producer and it terms of branding it can only give rise to a greater sense of loyalty; customers will return again to their loved and trusted brand. Coca-Cola employ a more surreptitious strategy with regards to their product information, one of the ingredients cryptically listed as “natural ingredients” doesn’t tell us as consumers what exactly that consists of. Coca-Cola want to protect their special formula by making their recipe a trade secret whereas Fentimans open up to the consumer about the brewing process and utilize this as a unique selling point.

All advertisements want us to subscribe to their narratives. Fentimans approaches its current campaign through the medium of storytelling. In December 2013, Fentimans launched a YouTube video entitled A Time Honoured Fashion of Yesteryear that focused on a narrative that describes Fentimans’ history, its origins, along with its botanical brewing process. Fentimans want us to view their brand image as a time-honored family tradition passed down from generation to generation.13

Fentimans beverages, a century old

A step in the past and an eye on a future yet untold,”14

One particular slogan that features in the Fentimans branding image goes: “no exceptions, beware of imitations.”15 This reinforces the uniqueness of Fentimans, and, like the discussion we had about the dominance of Coca-Cola over Pepsi, Fentimans achieves brand autonomy by presenting its recipe as proprietary to the Fentimans family.

Whilst promoting this brand image of family history in order to capitalize on the connotation of tradition, Fentimans reaches out to its target audience by showing us the origin of its ingredients; Juniper sourced from Romania, Rose Oil from Bulgaria, Ginger Root from China, and Lime Leaves from South East Asia, et cetera. This reveals that Fentimans appeals to middle class values, with the intent that their message will resonate with people who share a set of principles that relate to fairtrade ethics and such like. This kind of ethical appeal, coupled with a “home-made” image, means that Fentimans can charge a higher price for a bottle of Curiosity Cola than Coca-Cola can charge for a bottle of their regular Coke. We must bear in mind that it costs a mere 18 pence (11 cents) to produce a bottle of Coke.16

There exists a dichotomy in the Fentimans advertising strategy: one that straddles both the past and the future respectively. The video entitled A Time Honoured Fashion of Yesteryear juxtaposes the old botanical brewing process with the new method. In the same way that Coke manipulates its strategy to meet newer trends within its target audience, Fentimans seeks to show how a “yesteryear” brand operates in the present day.

It all comes down to taste but without the option of a third alternative what choice would that give us?

References

1Moth, David. “10 inspiring digital marketing campaigns from Coca-Cola.” Econsultancy.com 05 August 2013. Web. Accessed: 23 January 2014. http://econsultancy.com/blog/63175-10-inspiring-digital-marketing-campaigns-from-coca-cola

2Ibid.

3Ibid.

4Nourizadeh, Nima. “Just Add Zero.” YouTube.com 13 January 2014. Web. Accessed 23 January 2014. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Lm4oiLzJs2g

5West, Gillian. “Coca-Cola invests to relaunch Coke Zero brand with new campaign ‘Just add Zero’.” www.thedrum.com 09 January 2014. Web. Accessed: 23 January 2014. http://www.thedrum.com/news/2014/01/09/coca-cola-invests-re-launch-coke-zero-brand-new-campaign-just-add-zero

6Jung, C. G. Analytical Psychology: Its Theory and Practice. New York: Vintage Books. (1970): p. 183.

7Mlodniow, Leonard. Subliminal: the revolution of the new unconscious and what it teaches us about ourselves. London: Penguin. (2012): p. 8.

8West (2014).

9Ibid.

10“Our Botanically Brewed Beverages.” Fentimans.com Web. Accessed: 24 January 2014. http://www.fentimans.com/soft_drinks

11Ibid.

12“Fentimans Botanically Brewed Beverages.” Fentimans.com Web. Accessed: 24 January 2014. http://www.fentimans.com/welcome

13Fentimans Drinks. “Fentimans // Botanical Brewing: ‘A Time Honoured Fashion Of Yesteryear’.” YouTube.com 04 December 2013. Web. Accessed 24 January 2014. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Qm8oCrbCGRQ

14Ibid.

15Ibid.

16Nestle, Marion. “The real cost of Coke.” www.foodpolitics.com 04 February 2010. Web. Accessed: 24 January 2014. http://www.foodpolitics.com/2010/02/the-real-cost-of-coke/

Advertisements