March 07, 2007

A More Healthy Way to Stay Addicted?

An interesting New York Times article from this morning focuses on how soft drink leaders Coca Cola and Pepsi Cola are adapting their major diet soda brands to promote, of all things, health. Both companies have planned to adapt their flagship diet cola lines with a full set of vitamins, to break away from the "liquid candy" image, which many have used to link soda drinking to obesity.

The piece says specifically that Coca Cola will debut a brand extension called Diet Coke Plus, "which will contain niacin, vitamins B6 and B12, magnesium and zinc."

I made the switch from Pepsi Cola to Coke in my teens, and switched again from Coke to Diet Coke when in college. Now I probably down a six pack, conservatively, every single day. Unless the taste is completely indistinguishable from what I already drink, I don't have a huge incentive to switch again, and am quite dubious that the new Diet Coke Plus is going to strengthen my bones, fill me with physical energy and make me more attractive to the opposite sex. Instead, it's a lot like those old saturday morning commercials during cartoons where you would see Lucky Charms or Cookie Crisp, alongside toast, orange juice and a piece of fruit, saying it was "all part of a nutritious breakfast" and contained "9 vitamins and minerals", none of which broke the 20% RDA barrier.

What marketers sometimes fail to remember is that not all of their customers are stupid. We don't drink Diet Coke because it's healthy. We drink it because it has caffiene, tastes good, and stops from being thirsty. Maybe in that order. Sure, I can't even drink regular soda now without feelings of nausea, but I didn't switch to lose weight and reduce dental costs. And I won't switch to start looking like Popeye off a sprinkling of vitamins. Beyond this, brand extensions sometimes are not the answer. Read any book from Al Ries and Jack Trout, and they can teach you how to avoid the pitfalls of brand extensions. You simply can't take something unhealthy and relabel it as healthy. Nobody will believe you and it won't sell.

1 comment:

  1. Sweet drinks don't quench thirst; they make you thirstier.

    Theat's why so many people drink spring water or unsweet iced tea. They don't taste as good as a cola, but they do something about your thirst.

    But I agree with the gist of your message. Luxuries should be luxurious and hedonistic delights should be hedonistic. The guy who invented "turkey bacon" was an idiot.