Coca-Cola has brought their naturally-sweetened soda Coca-Cola Life to Canada after more than two years in markets like the United States, Argentina, and Britain. This marks the fourth soda under their masterbrand alongside Coke, Diet Coke, and Coke Zero. Unlike other markets where Coca-Cola Life was expected to be a niche offering, Canadian sales expectations are for the stevia-sweetened beverage to be a little less than Coke Zero (more info here). While Coke Zero has been in Canada for over 10 years and appears successful now, it wasn’t always that way. It took many dedicated marketing campaigns, a major packaging change, and a growing concern over calories from consumers before the soft drink caught on. What are some things that can be done to shorten the time it takes for Coca-Cola Life to reach Coke Zero’s stature, and sustain long term success?
Launch support for Coca-Cola Life looks strong however the question was never around launch timing, rather the post-launch marketing efforts. Observe two markets as evidence. Following the product’s introduction to the American market, sales fell drastically and required a “regional acceleration plan” to outpace 2014 sales. Britain also started with strong first month, however saw sales fall to only 25% of the launch period. If the company truly believes that consumers want fewer calories and naturally-sweetened sparkling beverages, then post-launch efforts should include dedicated marketing other than the Coca-Cola “one brand” marketing strategy. This is not to say that centralized marketing won’t help, it just may not be enough. Coca-Cola Life does not have the equity of the existing Coke soft drinks and relying on a “halo” effect is not enough.
Coca-Cola also has the opportunity of catering to favourable consumption trends. Diet Coke rose to prominence to address consumer concern from sugar intake. Coke Zero had its rise when men seemingly became concerned of their association with diet and also having to choose between sugar and taste. As Canadians become increasingly concerned about both sugar intake and calorie content, this amplifies the role Coca-Cola Life can play in attracting lapsed Coke drinkers and providing existing Coke drinkers a lower calorie alternative. Just as Diet Coke and Coke Zero played roles in extending Coca-Cola’s presence across different consumer lifestages, Coca-Cola Life helps the masterbrand reach an additional lifestage.
There is no doubt that Coca-Cola Life’s introduction will succeed in gaining traction. Their significant investment behind marketing, sampling, and customer support will generate product trial. For this product to catch Coke Zero and realize its full potential, we’ll need to monitor the type of support the company dedicates to Coca-Cola Life to ensure multiple repeat purchases.