Milking It - Another Coke Fail

I learned about Coke’s entrance into the milk market last week with a new product positioned as lower in sugar and higher in protein and calcium. They decided to test market in the UK and to try out an ad campaign. So far, so good – although I thought milk consumption was way down and I didn’t think it was a growing category. 

Then I saw the ads they chose to run.

Now I am not afraid of ads that intentionally grab attention if they align with the brand’s position, but this really missed the mark. The ads depicted woman in ‘milk dresses’ that show off that great new body they’ll get when they drink Fairlife, the brand name.

In 2014, these ads are so off they almost felt desperate. 

Coke must have known that these were going to be seen as sexist by the very audience they were trying to reach. These ‘Vargas-esque’ women shown in the ads felt like something out of Playboy in the 1960’s.  Very Don Draper.

Of course all the noise around the sexism of the ads did gain great attention in the media so it achieve the purpose of getting people aware of Coke’s new milk venture. But in the long run, how can you alienate the very audience you want to reach? Did this do more harm then good? Can you imagine how many people will be annoyed by this campaign before they taste the product? 

There are always options. 

If I were the Coke/Fairlife brand manager, here are some things I would have considered doing differently...

I wouldn’t have tried to position the brand around sexual imagery. Instead, I would have focused on successful woman in various walks of life where Fairlife supported them each day.

I would have used product donations to non-profits that support woman’s causes and to use publicity to suddenly be the brand associated with woman’s causes.

If the brand has a specific benefit to teenagers, I might have played up the Pro TEEN (protein) idea.

I would have considered everyday working Mom’s to be the face of the brand – not overtly sexy woman whose image appears dated and out of touch.

I would have used Instagram to catch woman in a ‘Fairlife moment’ that shows them getting through their day because of the added protein in their morning glass of milk.

From the Gallery
Of course it is easy from the 'peanut gallery' to say what you would do. I'm sure the brand team got seduced by the beautiful ads that were created and lost sight of who they were trying to reach. 

Last month I wrote about Coke's new soft drink Coke Life that I predict will fail as it too misses the mark. Read more about that here. I have nothing against the folks at Coke. I just want to see better product launches and marketing efforts. Testing is a normal cycle for a product launch so they get a do over although the UK media response should help them rethink the imagery and messaging. 

You have to market your product for the time you live in not some throw back to another era. Political correctness, right or wrong is ever present and there are too many outlets that will push back against old stereotypes. 

If you use advertising to market your product, are you confusing awareness and interest? I may be aware an ad campaign but feel off-put by the message or imagery. I think Dove's campaign with real woman has been the gold standard of how to do this right in the past few years. It is so important that you are crystal clear about the objective of any ad campaign. How do you want the majority of customers to feel. 

Go ahead, wipe that milk mustache off your lip. 

Jeffrey Slater
Need a fresh perspective on an ad campaign? Looking to milk an old message to a new audience? Maybe I can help. For marketing coaching, connect with me through Clarity

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