Coca-Cola to cut ‘zombie’ brands in move to focus on fewer products, more efficient marketing
Coca-Cola Co. will slash the number of products it sells and put a new emphasis on marketing efficiency as it tries to recover from what CEO James Quincey on Tuesday described as “the toughest and most complex quarter in Coca-Cola history.”
The global beverage giant reported a 28 percent drop in net revenues for the three months ending June 26 as earnings-per-share fell 32 percent to $0.41. Executives blamed the pandemic, which has forced the closure of bars, restaurants and other so-called “away from home” channels.
Sales have improved as establishments re-open. But with countries coming back at different speeds—and some, like the U.S., experiencing setbacks—executives were careful about being too bullish. “The pandemic is not behind us,” Chief Financial Officer John Murphy said on the earnings call. “There is still good reason to be cautious.”
The company paused most of its global ad spending as the coronavirus took hold in March and has slowly brought marketing back online in recent weeks. In early July it debuted a new campaign from Anomaly New York that plugs Coke with food, including an ad called “The Great Meal,” which features at-home dining during the pandemic.
“No marketing is going to make much difference in the second quarter so we pulled back heavily,” Quincey said in the call. Going forward, “we are going to be judicious in our use marketing, in our use of capital expenditures,” he added.
That includes being more selective about which new products it will support. “We are shifting to prioritize fewer but bigger and stronger brands,” including “exiting some zombie brands,” he said, foreshadowing a move to pare back the amount of products it sells. Of the company’s roughly 400 master brands, “more than half are single-country brands with little to no scale,” accounting for just 2 percent of total company revenues, he said. “They are growing slower than the company average but each one still requires resources and investment,” Quincey said. He referenced the recent decision to discontinue the company’s Odwalla juice business as an example of products that will be cut.
Coke’s move is indicative of how companies are trying to get leaner to survive the pandemic. Snack food maker Mondelez International, for instance, recently outlined plans to eliminate a quarter of its product varieties. Meanwhile, General Mills reduced the number of Progresso soups it is selling during the pandemic, Jon Nudi, president of the company's North America retail business, said on a July 1 conference call, adding that some of them probably won't come back.
Contributing: Jessica Wohl