The Death of Coke Life

Coca-cola is launching a new product called Coca-Cola Life. I'm here to say it is DOA. 

From Wikipedia:
Coca-Cola Life is a product of Coca Cola launched in Argentina in June 2013, and in Chile in November of that year. It was created in Argentina after five years of research in the country.[1] It is the first version of the soft drink to be produced with stevia and sugar as sweeteners. Coca-Cola Life is due to be launched in the USA and Sweden, in September 2014; and is undergoing trials in the UK as of August 2014.[2][3] It is a lower calorie version of Coca-Cola, having 27kcal/100mL, containing 60% of the calories of classic Coke.[4] Coca-Cola Life will co-exist with Diet Coke and Coca-Cola Zero[5] in the Argentine and Chile market. It can be compared with Pepsi Next, which also uses Stevia as a sweetener.

Coke Light is trying to find a happy medium between full-calorie Coke and artificial sweetener Diet Coke and Coke Zero. Sitting on the fence is always a dangerous place for a product to be since it isn’t fish or fowl.  When consumers are trying to lower sugar in their diet, one can of Coke Light blows the recommended daily allowance of sugar for an entire day. And phosphoric acid listed on the ingredients doesn’t sound all that natural to me.

Pepsi went down this path once before with Pepsi Raw that used more natural sugars like Kola nuts and less sugar. It failed as will Coke Life.

Changing the River
Coke is searching for a way to change the flow of the river. Consumers are drinking less soft drinks and the obesity message is coming toward them like a tidal wave. To shift perceptions, they are trying this new approach that changes how you view Coke that is different on two fronts – stevia versus sugar and plastic that is made from sugar cane. This bottle has been successful for their Dasani brand  (the plant bottle).

Why Launch This Product?
My view is that this new product is part of shifting perceptions among consumers. Coke can point to how they are addressing weight and calorie issues in a new and innovative method. And I think the product will fail but it will have some success shifting perception.

Can a product fail in the market but succeed as a marketing tool?

Yes and yes. 

And it is my view that this is exactly what the product will do. It is Coke so consumers will pick it up and try it but I doubt it will shift consumption patterns. I’m not going back to drinking soft drinks every day.  I’m out of the category. The difference between 140 and 89 calories isn't the issue. This is like printed newspapers. I'm out of the category and am not going back to getting a daily paper delivered in paper form. 

This shift, however may make me see Coke in a slightly different light because they are attempting to provide alternatives and options. So this product launch is as much about perception as it is about sales. 

Coke Life is trying to smooth the rough edges of the sugar is bad for you, that is part of the brand. But as a consumer, I have hundreds of options for more natural beverages that aren't inextricably linked to high sugar and artificial ingredients. Coke (and Pepsi) own many of these products and its great that they have diversified. 

But this is a classic error that even the big boys make thinking that a brand can be all things to all people. If I were a Senior Marketer in the Coke camp, I'd be trying ideas like this too. But in my heart, I'd know that this is an idea that won't last and will be under water soon. 

What do you think about Coke Life? Any chance to find a place in the declining Coke portfolio? 


Jeffrey Slater

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