Market Research & Coca-Cola - The Anti-Obesity Campaign

Does Market Research Call for a New Coke-V8?

coke bottle chronology
Courtesy Coca-Cola &Copy;

Coca-Cola Has a PR Problem 

The anti-sugary drink campaign poses an enormous threat to the brands of soft-drink manufacturers. How these companies respond to the negative publicity about soda pop is likely to determine the economic viability of the companies. Minimally, the public relations campaigns these soft drink companies will have to wage will impact whether they continue to grow. Or, if their profit margins level out, incapable of attracting new markets and barely hanging on to their most loyal customers.

Indeed, all the growth in the soda pop industry over the past decade and a half is a result of sales of low-calorie and no-calorie drinks, like Coke Zero. The market shows diet soda beverages as one-third of the soda pop sales in Canada and the United States.

Big Brother Doesn't Like Sugary Beverages

Some decisions are being taken out of the hands of consumers as municipal governments attempt to restrict sales of a proportion of the “big cup” sugary drinks. Typically, public polls about governmental intervention in the diets of a society are not well received. In fact, the courts are examining the lawfulness of such regulations.

Market research generally indicates that people are vehemently on one side of the argument or the other. Either they resent a meddling, “nanny” government or they believe that society should do all it can to prevent obesity. For many people, this means that marketing and advertising are in the crosshairs.

In fact, counter-marketing is seen as an effective and necessary tool to inform the public about the health hazards of their daily habits. For example, a video by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) called Sugar Bears delivers a no-nonsense message about the dire effects of too much sugar in the diet.

The Long-Standing Partnership Between Market Researchers and Coke

Coca-Cola has had years to perfect their approach to social media, and their commercials are some of the best loved in the history of advertising. Coca-Cola collectibles are popular and the characters from the commercials, such as the polar bears, are globally familiar and widely appealing. Coca-Cola has a deep bench of brand advocates who enthusiastically engage in the social media activities that are designed to provide reasons for brand loyalty that extend well beyond the product itself. All this effort to add excitement to the brand is intended to obfuscate the bad press and redirect those who would fall off the Coke bandwagon if it were just not so darn much fun to be on it.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is conducting its own social media campaign. Their website message follows below and the video is embedded with links to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+.

Big soda companies have billions of dollars to tell their story, but we have each other. Oh—and we have the truth. Help The Real Bears spread the truth about soda by sharing the film. Facebook it. Tweet it. Pin it. Google+ it. Email the link to your friends and relatives. Show it at school. Sit down and watch it with your whole family. Host a movie night and watch it before the main feature. Talk about The Real Bears on your YouTube show. Embed it on your website or blog. Have at it. You are the messenger. Sharing is the only means we have to make sure the unhappy truth about soda gets out to the world.

Stuart Kronauge of Coca-Cola recently said, in a prepared statement, that,

"Obesity is complex, and it requires partnership and collaboration to help solve it. We have an important role to play in the effort to find solutions that work for everybody."

The marketing message emphasizes that everyone need to work together to solve the obesity problem. The first order of the day is to ensure that everyone in a joint project agrees on the definitions that are used by its members. This is one very important area in which Coca-Cola’s marketing message falls short. The Coca-Cola Company would have its customers and the general public believe that obesity is caused by consuming too many calories of any kind and that this public health issue does not stem from consuming too may calories from sugary drinks.

The soda beverage industry tracker, Beverage Digest, reports that overall consumption of soda pop in the United States has dropped continually since 1998. Is it any wonder The Coca-Cola Company and other soft drink manufacturers are running scared?