At first glance, the new Coca-Cola communication brand positioning “Taste the Feeling” is a disservice to theories about brand purpose.
I’ve come across several views on this new brand positioning in an attempt to understand one thing: why I didn’t like it. But first, let’s go over some of the given reasons for Coke’s new strategy.
Coca-Cola is under a new CMO management of Marcos de Quinto, and his first act is to put the company back on the growth track. Overall, his speech seems to diagnose the problem in three different aspects:
What I would ponder first is not the diagnosis itself, but the discourse behind this new brand positioning and how it has, at least in my view, turned into a very problematic solution.
From a consumer perspective, I do agree with putting all products under one single brand. However, what strikes me is that they are not really addressing the issue with healthier consumption of sugar; in my eyes, they’re just wrapping the brand in a different discourse. It is important to note also that today, people would increasingly agree that Coke isn’t healthy, as we now have greater access to information.
When de Quinto justified Coke’s new brand positioning towards product-centred communication, he was basically saying that the brand and the product weren’t producing a consistent message. According to him, the brand idea should be put on the back burner for now, and that Coke should be talking about what the product really is about — the taste. Up until this point, everything made sense and this strategy seemed to be reasonably logical, if not for this problem: the strong connection between a brand and its product.
Perhaps facing the brand and product as two separate things were the reason that led Coke to talk about its product’s benefits at a time when people are much more conscious about the way they consume. To be clear, the risk is obvious in ‘heroing’ a product that causes many more detrimental effects than benefits.
This led me to wonder if it was possible to do both, leverage the product but through a consistent brand message. When we think about why brands start talking with people, it’s often because products are becoming homogenous, and connecting a brand with a higher-level concept of happiness, for example, is a way to differentiate. It would seem, then, that Coke’s new strategy is a bit of a backpedal.
When experts define a brand as what your company stands for, it is quite clear. They are not only talking about a purpose, campaign, personality, your employees, etc. Having a brand is taking into account the whole value chain throughout the company. With Coke’s new positioning, it seems like the various parts of the Coke brand are being viewed as disparate elements, and ultimately the brand feels like it is losing cohesion — a bit ironic, when you think de Quinto is attempting to create consistency.
I know it is debatable, but when we head to a tangible understanding of what that means, we only have to look at the new campaign. The Anthem commercial, which is intended to start spreading the new message, is really rather generic. Where is that feeling that made them a globally adored brand? Nowhere. If you watch the campaign, all of Coke’s justifications are there, a perfect little package of functional and emotional attributes. “Taste the Feeling” works only as a rational discourse with an apparent need to validate the product. Nothing more, nothing less.
I propose this exercise then, try doing the same with other brands and let me know how it feels.
I understand Coke’s reasoning. I even agree to some extent. But the way the campaign portrays the brand as only a product takes us back to the ’80s. On top of that, the execution bothers me. It is rather soon to predict anything, but my gut says this new brand positioning won’t do justice to Coke’s brand and risks damaging their equity. If I’d try to guess something here, not far from now we will be seeing Coke revising its strategy again. But, only time will tell.
“‘Taste the Feeling’: In Major Shift, Coca-Cola Pivots From ‘Open Happiness’” – brandchannel, 2016
“Coca-Cola unites brands under new ‘Taste the Feeling’ global campaign” – brandrepublic, 2016
“Sugar baddie: Coca Cola tries to inject some fizz into Coke Zero sales” – brandrepublic, 2016