Here is my “favorite” line from a Wall Street Journal article regarding the resounding success of Coca-Cola’s “Share A Coke” advertising campaign, in which the 250 most popular names of teens and millennials were prominently emblazoned on the labels of some of their soft drink bottles, and which not only halted a decade long decline in soda sales, but actually resulted in a 2% increase:
“That has provided a welcome lift for the beverage giant, which is trying to combat concerns over obesity and artificial sweeteners by hiking its global advertising budget by $1 billion over the next three years, up from $3.3 billion in 2013.”
Yes, Coke is “combatting” the public’s concerns about drinking sodas that contribute to obesity, diabetes, and other sugar-related diseases, not by changing its product or increasing public awareness about nutrition, or –God-knows – sticking a warning label on the product – but by increasing its advertising budget by 1/3.
The “Share-A-Coke” campaign is being hailed as ingenious by advertising and business publications like Adweek and Forbes for forging an “emotional connection” with young consumers, who proudly share photos of themselves alongside their namesake soda bottles on social media sites like Instagram, where over a half-million such photos have been posted with the hashtag #shareacoke alone.
As Rene Descartes famously put it, “I have a soda bottle with my first name on it, therefore I am.”
One 22 year old named Ricardo El Torro summed up the appeal. “To see your name on a big brand, it makes it personal,” he said, momentarily forgetting that he’s not the only “Ricardo” in the United States.
The article also mentions a 24 year old married Ohio woman named Alyssa who “hunted all summer” for bottles of Coke with her and her husband’s names on them, and having finally found the coveted bottles, is contemplating keeping them on a shelf next to her wedding pictures. “I’ll keep them forever,” she’s quoted as breathlessly uttering, to which the only reasonable reaction is “Why?”
As proof that splashing 250 common names on bottles was the “it” factor in rising sales, Pepsi and Dr. Pepper, which continued putting out their old miserable, impersonal, nameless soda bottles bereft of a soul, saw their sales continue to plummet.
If there is a “genius” to the Share A Coke campaign, it’s in creating this ultimate identification with a product, which relies on consumers paying more attention to the brand’s image than its quality.
After all, breathes there a high-school student or adolescent – aside from those who live on a weird organic farm or something – who hasn’t drank a Coke or Pepsi in their lives? Logically, that should be all it takes to know if you like the stuff or not, rendering all subsequent advertising unnecessary and/or unpersuasive. Likewise those ubiquitous Miller and Bud beer commercials trying to convince football fans every Sunday and Monday night (and now Thursday eves as well) that their brewed swill is synonymous with manly good times. Folks: the next time you drink the glop, here’s a tip: instead of internalizing some corporate-promoted image of what imbibing the brew says about you, PAY ATTENTION TO THE TASTE. It will likely be a revelation.
It’s not quite fair to say that the three soft drink giants are doing nothing to allay consumers’ health concerns about their products other than increasing their advertising budgets. They’ve all committed to reducing the calories in their soft drinks by a whopping 20% by the year 2025 in the U.S. (as opposed to other countries where the political pressure is less, ergo who cares about their health). Yes, in a mere 11 years, the great minds at Coke & Pepsi will figure out how to put 1/5 less sugar in a soda can. One thing they’re doing right now is packaging their sodas in smaller cans and bottles, which might lower caloric consumption among customers with no sense of portion control, but will inextricably lead to more pollution, refuse and environmental damage. Hey, one problem at a time, OK?
And Coke and Pepsi are both experimenting with lower-calorie brands sweetened with a combination of sugar and stevia, named “Life” and “True” respectively, and sold in green cans, because nothing says “pseudo-healthy” like “green.”
In the meantime, Alyssa and Chris and Jess and Ricardo, give passing thanks to Obamacare. Because if you get hooked on drinking soda due to the Share A Coke campaign, contributing to your one day becoming obese and sick and requiring expensive medical attention, what you’ll want then is someone to Share the Cost.