RC battles bigger colas with unique guarantee

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Royal Crown Co. is trying to lure back consumers with a return to advertising and a money-back guarantee that cola connoisseurs will love the taste of its RC products.

The Triarc Beverage Group unit, on the road to recovery from years of double-digit sales declines, hopes the guarantee will illustrate a clear point of difference -- enough to bring back consumers lost to Coca-Cola Co., PepsiCo and a growing number of premium private-label brands. To do that, the distant No. 3 cola player is introducing the first-ever refund offer in the soft-drink category -- no questions asked -- if consumers aren't completely satisfied.

The new "Great taste, great value guaranteed" message will reach consumers with a bold burst on all packages of RC Cola, Diet RC and Cherry RC and through an estimated $3 million print and radio campaign from Blum Group, New York, that begins later this month. Newspaper ads in the top 40 U.S. markets will tout the new guarantee, as will radio spots in 20 markets.

Year-round on-package coupons good for future purchases, including a spring offer to "Buy two, get one free," will also drive home the longtime value proposition of the brand at a time when retail pricing for soft drinks is "all over the board," according to RC Senior VP-Marketing Jeffrey Spencer.


This summer, RC also plans to tie in with events and Web sites, possibly among them value.com, that also "offer value day in and day out, and [because of that] help us to deliver our value message to consumers," Mr. Spencer added.

RC has seen increasingly steep sales declines for its colas since 1995. The brand's volume dropped a whopping 16.7% in 1998 compared with a 3% decline three years earlier, according to Beverage Marketing Corp.

"It's clear that RC can't play the exact same game as Coke and Pepsi, and the new positioning is an attempt to establish a point of difference and give people a reason to try RC again," said Gary Hemphill, VP of Beverage Marketing.

The new "You'll love the taste of Royal Crown Cola" effort is part of an overall move to solidify the positioning of each of the Royal Crown brands in 2000 with increased marketing expenditures. RC Edge will extend its "Maximum power" position with a tie-in to the World Wrest-ling Federation that kicks off in April, while Diet Rite will be touted as an aspartame-free soft drink with no sugar, caffeine or sodium in a new national ad campaign (AA, Oct. 25, 1999). Royal Crown spent virtually nothing on measured media in 1999, according to Com-petitive Media Reporting.

Royal Crown held a 1.2% share of the soft drink category in 1998, down from a 1.4% share a year earlier, according to Beverage Marketing.

That's compared to a 44.6% share for all Coca-Cola brands in 1998.

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