What's behind Coca-Cola Zero?
My wife and I were walking through Wal-mart this week and came across a peculiar looking new soft drink. It caught my attention intially because the packaging was the most horrid-looking black and white image I had ever seen for a soda (and that includes generic brands!). But you can imagine my surprise when I saw the name of the product: Coca-Cola Zero!
Coca-Cola makes this? What WERE they thinking with this packaging? And Zero what? Caffeine? Calories? Taste? At first I thought it might be a repackaging of an existing Coca-Cola product. I picked up the 2-liter bottle and looked at the ingredients and nutritional information. I immediately noticed it had aspartame and realized this was yet another diet soda. But it was peculiar because the word "diet" doesn't appear on the label anywhere!
The nutrition label confirmed my suspicions by revealing this new soda has zero calories and zero carbs. So what's the point? My first thought was, "Is this a repackaging of Diet Coke?" But in comparing the ingredients, I noticed that Coca-Cola Zero has another sweetener called ACE-K in it. That sweetener may sound familiar because it is the same one Coca-Cola used for their new Diet Coke with Splenda which recently hit store shelves. This was different, but why did they make this product?
I bought a bottle of Coca-Cola Zero as well as a bottle of Diet Coke with Splenda to conduct a taste test with my wife. As someone who does not drink diet soda regularly, she usually has an honest opinion about how diet things taste. But even she could not tell a big difference between Coca-Cola Zero and Diet Coke with Splenda.
Basically, the only difference between the two was one has Splenda and the other has aspartame. I was thrilled when I heard Coke was making a diet version of their soda with Splenda, but this new Coca-Cola Zero has me suspicious. Are they TRYING to kill sales of Diet Coke with Splenda by marketing another product that is coincidentally similar in nature? What better way to thumb their noses at those of us who begged for them to make a Splenda version of their soft drink?
Why else would they release THIS diet soda so soon after Diet Coke with Splenda? I smell a rat and it points back to a meeting room at the headquarters of Coca-Cola.
Coca-Cola's response to the release of Coca-Cola Zero is "everybody chill," their youthful slogan to reach a new market of consumers who are not currently buying any diet sodas. I guess you could applaud Coca-Cola for creating a product that will appeal to non-diet soda drinkers with its taste while cutting out the sugar. That is admirable of them, but couldn't they have done the same with the Splenda-flavored Diet Coke?
Maybe Coca-Cola thought they HAD to market these products separately so the Splenda fans would know their needs are being met and the youth who are targeted for the new version felt a connection with it. I still think it's oversaturating the market with products that are virtually alike. Don't believe me? How about conducting a taste test with youth who buy Coca-Cola Zero like I did with my wife? I bet they won't be able to tell the difference. But Splenda is better for them than aspartame.
Coca-Cola is stoked about their new soda reaching a fresh market of young consumers.
"When we created Coca-Cola Zero, we put together the only things that matter -- real Coca-Cola taste and zero calories," said Katie Bayne, Coca-Cola North America, in a release. "Coca-Cola Zero is for people who want great Coca-Cola taste, zero calories, and a new brand they can call their own."
We'll see if they (referring to the youth) call it their own or if they'll keep buying regular Coke. As someone who does not drink sugary soda anymore, I can't tell that a soft drink is diet. I ask my wife to sip my drink when we go out to eat if I think it tastes too sweet. She can usually tell almost immediately that it is diet. Even she commented that Coca-Cola Zero had the wang of a diet soda. Are young people gonna switch to this product and buy into the marketing gimmick? I don't think so.
Of course, PepsiCo did the same thing when they released their one-calorie soft drink called Pepsi One. Interestingly, though, that product is made with Splenda and ACE-K.
Be looking for the ad campaign for Coca-Cola Zero to start this week.
"Coca-Cola Zero's personality will be different than any of our other brands, and our marketing will reflect that with some fresh ideas we haven't tried before," said Christine Holland, director of marketing, Coca-Cola Zero.
Are they gonna have smiling teeny-boppers and college students dancing around holding a Coca-Cola Zero in their hands? Just how much "different" can they get and since when do we care about a soda's "personality?" Sheeez! These marketing people get so excited about the strangest things.
Coca-Cola maintains Coca-Cola Zero will have "no impact" on the sale of Diet Coke, the #1 diet soft drink in the United States because it will have a different target audience.
"The launch of Coca-Cola Zero continues our commitment to expand the leading trademark in the world, Coca-Cola, to bring people the best products to fit their needs," Bayne added.
I'll give them that, it will certainly expand Coca-Cola's presence in the marketplace. But at what price? Will consumers scratch their heads at all the varieties and switch to another brand?
"We work hard to minimize that by making sure all of our brands have distinct graphics and marketing," Coke spokesman Scott Williamson said.
While that may sound like a good answer for the board meeting at Coca-Cola, I still believe customers will be so overwhelmed by the glut of products that they will stick with what they know. And maybe that's what Coca-Cola was hoping for from the start!