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Stay in the Can!
by Andy
November 24, 2015

Coke CanA few weeks back I made the argument Coca-Cola needs to take on the obesity issue more strongly, lead the conversation, and re-affirm what it stands for rather than sustaining a less sexy strategy of educating Americans about calorie intake and exercise.  While I personally agree with Coke’s perspective, the broader U.S. public isn’t buying it.  Instead, the public increasingly sees long-admired marketing campaigns and massive manufacturing and distribution systems employed by Coca-Cola, and the entire soft drink category, as sinister catalysts to a growing obesity epidemic.

At the same time investors demand growth; and rely on The Coca-Cola Company to generate volume and share increases across its global portfolio each year – the majority of which is comprised of full sugar brands.  TCCC’s sparkling portfolio grew 1% on top of an already enormous world-leading base!  Stills grew 2%.  Plus, Coca-Cola (the brand) enjoys 94% global recognition, global distribution, global consumption, and (mostly) global reverence.  So who wants to put that incredible growing base and powerful brand at risk by repositioning the flagship product?  Meaning Coca-Cola’s global stance may be impossible to change.  Ever.

Rather than re-define what Coke stands for in the wake of recent criticism, perhaps TCCC should more strongly embrace it.  Celebrate what’s on the can and in it.

Coca-Cola stands for refreshment, happiness, America, fun and is delivered through a great-tasting, albeit sugary, carbonated soft drink.  There are other revered brands that may not be healthy, but enjoy healthy brand status and strong financial returns.  Budweiser comes to mind (Bud Select, Bud Light, Bud Light Ritas, etc.).  Consumers understand the issue of drinking too much beer and are well aware of the forces of temperance.  That has not kept Budweiser from re-affirming its commitment to fun, America, friends, happiness.  And while on a smaller scale, Budweiser also enjoys global brand recognition, global distribution, global consumption, and (mostly) global reverence.

The current level of public outcry is relatively new to Coke.  Beer manufacturers, however, have been dealing with alcohol issues forever.  All know over-consumption leads to drunkenness and if you get behind the wheel or cause a public spectacle, you will find yourself on the wrong side of the law or worse.  The risks are known to all.

The same may hold true for Coca-Cola.  Should consumers “please drink responsibly?”

A bolder re-affirmation of yes we have sugar, coupled with aggressively addressing concerns of portion size and distribution strategies, could keep everyone happy.  I believe Coke is doing just that, but needs to do louder and more visibly and surround all facets thereof.

5 Responses to “Stay in the Can!”

  1. I enjoyed your blog post, why do Coke and McDonalds and others try to recreate themselves as opposed to what they do well. I understand I don’t want a big mac everyday but I am not going to think McDonalds when I think healthy food, someone else already has that space. What I want from McDonalds is a tasty hamburger and some fries served quickly in clean surroundings or drive through.

    Your comparison with Beer is right on. We all understand don’t drink to much beer but when I want a beer I don’t want healthy sparkling water.

    I don’t always drink a sugary beverage but when I do I drink Coke, Stay relevant my friend.

  2. Ha! Well said. I also believe the future of Coke’s core brands is as more of an indulgence product, or at least by owning what they are.

  3. Profit trumps public health in a capitalist model. Although the American Personal Responsibility in Food Consumption Act, also known as the cheese burger bill, in a large part lays the responsibility at the consumers feet certain socio economic groups will continue to be exploited as they succumb to the purchase of “inferior goods” –they will remain more vulnerable to childhood obesity diabetes and heart disease
    It’s only the privileged who can choose when and if to purchase fast food (one classic example of inferior goods). Most have to choose between utility bills and healthy food.

    Hard to think about delayed health benefits when one can barely pay to shelter the family. My cynical view is that anything Corporate America does to head in right direction will only be to appease with priority remaining its stock holders (their wallets not waistline). This is our path unless the government steps in with meaningful corporate regulation and mandates healthier foods to our schools, which will likely not happen in our lifetime

    There could not be a more relevant topic today.

  4. Interesting post! There’s definitely a solid point here. I can live with Coke and its marketing strategy. I can’t take a company like Snapple – who produces similar aspartame-laced diet drinks and yet calls it “made from the best stuff on earth”. Give me a break, Snapple – you should be tried and convicted for false advertising.

  5. Excellent analysis and guidance. Coca-Cola should heed your advice. Otherwise they may soon be to Atlanta what U.S. Steel became to Pittsburgh: An icon of the glorious past and a cautionary tale to other industry giants.

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