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Have we lost the art of really telling our customers what we are selling?

At lunch recently with a group of friends (most being professional and therefore somewhat educated people) the topic of Cokes’ New Life product came up for discussion. The conversation lasted for some time and went something like this…

“Has anyone tried Coke’s New Life? “What exactly is it”?

“Its sugar free Coke.”

“Is it, I thought is still had sugar in it?”

“Yes, yes, it still has sugar, I tried it last week.”

“Well, what is different about it, does it have caffeine in it?”

“No that’s Coke Zero, Coke Zero still has sugar but no caffeine”.

“No that’s not correct Coke Zero has caffeine just not sugar, take a look at the can, it even says no sugar.”

“Well what is diet coke?”

“That is sugar free coke but with artificial sweetener.”

“What???, I am confused, well why is there Coke Zero and Diet Coke?”

“Well blokes don’t like drinking diet drinks, so Coke launched Coke Zero but now the girls like to drink it as well.”

“Okay, so what about Coke Life, if it still has sugar and caffeine then how is it different to full strength Coke?”

“Well it contains Stevia and less sugar.”

“Stevia??? What is that, isn’t that some kind of sweetener?”

“Yes, but it’s natural, not artificial.”

“If Coke Life still has sweetener then why does it still contain sugar? That seems odd?”

“Is Coke trying to pretend it’s healthy?”

“Anyway, I won’t be drinking it, I thought it was a healthy form of Coke.”

Reading in the press recently the struggle Coke Life is having with its latest launch, I couldn’t help but reflect on my lunch time conversation … Why so many products in general fail despite the extensive gate-keeping process and research which goes into new product launches.

As marketers, are we so consumed with building brand equity, and trying to connect to our customer, that we are forgetting the very essence and basics of explaining to our customers what it is that we are selling?

Maybe we are so focused with staying on trend, meeting those consumer needs and demands, that we have overlooked some of the basic principles of insight & marketing: to communicate what our product offering is – especially the features.

With competition ever increasing across all industries and in particular in the FMCG space, a key point of difference surely is simplicity in the messaging of the intention of the product.

Coke Life is a nice addition to the Coke family. It’s the in-between Coke – it’s not sugar free but the sugar is reduced and replaced with a natural sweetener. It aims to offer a natural alternative to consumers who want to eat more cleanly.

Does it need to be any more complicated than that?

At Watch Me Think, we have just launched a series of consumer led trend video immersions.

First off the mark is “Clean Eating, is it the new natural?” In this series people (who we call “Thinkers”) told us they just want honesty and openness from the industry especially when it comes to natural positioning of products.

  • Maybe Coke felt it was difficult to explain to their customers?
  • That they would love to give them a naturally sweetened product free of sugar and calories?
  • But that formulating such a product is really difficult and therefore this was the alternative?

Such an open approach might be considered dangerous & not savvy enough, but with food industry scepticism at an all time high, an open and honest approach will surely deliver greater launch success with less confusing lunch time conversations happening around it.