But another investor was not impressed, saying "those cans are
terrible and going to confuse the heck out of people … The
red creates a negative reaction for me as a diet drinker." Indeed,
"confusion" was the a dominant phrase in a word cloud included in
the Bernstein report that summarized the feedback. The word Japan
appears in the cloud because some investors noted similarities of
the design to Japan's rising sun flag.
Coca-Cola is counting on the use of the secondary colors to
limit confusion. Coke Zero, for instance, retains a swath of black
on the front of the can that extends to cover all of the back of
the can. The phrase "Zero Sugar" also is spelled out on the front,
while "original taste" is used for regular Coke. Also, secondary
packaging makes broad use of the variant colors. Black will be
heavily used for the 12-pack packaging for Coke Zero, for
Coke first introduced its "one brand" strategy in January when
it began running a new global ad campaign called "Taste the
Feeling." Ads unite multiple varieties like Diet Coke and Coke Zero
in a single campaign, rather than running disparate spots.
But the packaging changes could prove to be the biggest test of
the new approach because that is where consumers come face-to-face
with the product.
"Packaging is, in essence, our most visible and most valuable
owned media asset," James Sommerville, VP-global design for
stated in a corporate blog post. "While TV commercials, digital
communication and billboards are extremely effective and important,
consumers physically touch a Coca-Cola bottle or can."
He added that the new design "does not create a 'matching
luggage' look. It's a modular design device that will be applied
individually across all global packaging templates and adapted to
all printing techniques. When you see the lineup, you see a common
language, a single voice – but used in different ways
depending on the treatment, environment, country and context."
Sam Becker, a creative director at WPP-owned design agency Brand
Union, which did not work on the packaging, praised Coke for making
greater use of the color red. "I think it makes all the sense in
the world to start to own red more, which sounds crazy to talk
about a brand like Coke that arguably owns red more than any other
brand on earth," he said in an interview. "But they could do more
and they are."
On an earnings call Wednesday, Coca-Cola executives predicted
that the new design will improve in-store marketing and
merchandizing. "It helps us create what we would call corporate
blocking," said Coca-Cola Co. President and Chief Operating Officer
James Quincey. "In other words, we execute in stores all the
variants of Coca-Cola together as one big block. [It] has a much
greater store impact, visual impact [and] engagement with people
who are shopping the stores."
CEO Muhtar Kent said the "one brand" strategy will give the
company "significant efficiencies and effectiveness." Bernstein in
its report noted that the strategy "could enable some efficiencies
in marketing spend." In other words, Coke could reduce media
spending on individual campaigns for the variants if they are all
marketed together in a single campaign.
The changes come as Coke continues to battle headwinds in the
soda category that include health concerns. U.S. sales volume for
the Coke megabrand fell 2.6% last year, according to Beverage
Digest. In its first quarter earnings report released Wednesday,
Coca-Cola stated that sparkling beverage volume in North America
was flat. "Growth in Sprite, Fanta and energy drinks was offset by
a decline in trademark Coca-Cola," the company stated.
Rick Shea, a former packaged-food marketing executive and
president of Shea Marketing, said he does not expect the design
changes to change the trajectory of Coke's business.
"Consumers still obviously have issues with the carbonated soda
category," he said. "You try and put your best design element
forward, but there are many other variables that are bigger impacts
to your volume than the design of the packaging."