THE MARKETING 100: SURGE: FRANK BIFULCO

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For a citrus soft drink targeting the active 12-to-34-year-old set, Coca-Cola Co.'s Surge has a lot of clinical definitions and heady terminology attached to it. For instance, it comes in wide-mouth bottles for improved "drinkability."

"That's what Surge is all about: making ordinary times extraordinary," says Frank Bifulco, VP-marketing.

Little about the launch of Surge, which also carries a blast of caffeine, has been ordinary. Under Mr. Bifulco's watch, the company pumped $50 million in marketing through Leo Burnett USA, Chicago.

The hyper-kinetic "Feed the Rush" campaign has raged since Super Bowl XXXI in January, when a sampling campaign exposed the beverage to more than 5 million youths in 140 markets.

The marketer also broke its "Fully Loaded Summer" promotion-a sister campaign to Coke Classic's "Incredible Summer" effort-in 25 markets, complete with a sweepstakes of 26 classic Surge-splashed Checker Cabs.

Coca-Cola executives had been looking for a brand that could accomplish two tasks. First, they needed a product that could chip away at Pepsi-Cola Co.'s Mountain Dew's youthful market and 5.7% share of the soft drink industry. Second, the executives needed a young brand that could give Coca-Cola Co. a 50% share of the soft-drink beverage category by 2000. That's no small chore: Coke today hovers near 44%, with Pepsi around 30%.

With the resurgence, so to speak, of citrus sodas, a return to that "lemon-lime" taste seemed to be the answer.

Surge has been "carefully crafted . . . to be a brand with intrinsic and extrinsic properties that we felt would resonate strongly with consumers," Mr. Bifulco says.

Though challenges remain, the brand has so far exceeded expectations, says Mr. Bifulco, 47. It's currently available to 60% of consumers nationally, and the company is "in the throes of taking it national as quickly as we can," he says.

So expect to see a lot more of that "fully loaded citrus soda" at a GenX bash near you.

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