Canadians Share A Coke

Share a Coke Jason

A marketing campaign’s success in one part of the world certainly merits consideration to be repeated in other parts.  As such, the initial Australian Share a Coke campaign has been repeated in many other countries, recently coming to Canada earlier this month.  The Canadian campaign customizes 591ml/16oz bottles of Coca-Cola, Diet-Coke, and Coke Zero with people’s names on them.  One side will feature the customized name while the other side still says Coca-Cola.  Coca-Cola will be putting nearly 300 popular Canadian’s names on their bottle labels and then shipping them out to retailers.  Sadly, my name (Jason) does not qualify for one of the 300 most popular Canadian names (find out whether yours is here) so I’ll have to go to a kiosk machine to actually get my name printed on a bottle.  These kiosks will be available all through summer, in Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, Vancouver, and Toronto.

Funny enough – or smartly – Coca-Cola has provided some parameters around naming, at least for the online portion.  Words that do not exist in their word bank are met with a question mark and an invitation to add the name to their word bank (must be reviewed first).  This prevents people from abusing the labeling system or from using it for malicious intent.  Seems like they’ve learned their lesson from the vitaminwater fiasco from earlier in the year.

Coca-Cola does have safeguard parameters to prevent abuse.  Even the word "Hello" cannot be printed on the label for sharing since it's not in the word bank.  Courtesy of shareacoke.ca.
Coca-Cola does have safeguard parameters to prevent abuse. Even the word “Hello” cannot be printed on the label for sharing since it’s not in the word bank. Courtesy of shareacoke.ca.

All in all, not a bad campaign to extend beyond Australia.  When the customized name campaign first rolled, media outlets and consumers alike picked up on this.  It was categorized as a strong success given the increase in awareness and social media engagement.  The Canadian campaign is decidedly different from the original campaign.  For one, social media engagement plays a different role in Canada than Australia.  The Australian components allowed consumers to create a custom commercial through their Facebook album as well as enter to win $50,000.   More interestingly, the campaign also included customized “name songs” that could be downloaded, which showed a personalized touch between Coke, music, and the individual.  The Canadian iteration of this campaign focuses more on social engagement to share the customized label, but removes the contest and name songs.

Another key difference between the original and Canadian campaign is the product assortment.  Our Canadian campaign includes naming labels for Diet Coke and Coke Zero as well.  This is a sound move whereby Coca-Cola understands the geographical differences and taste preferences of Canadians.  Many consumers prefer Coca-Cola, but there are a growing number of Canadians that are looking for lower calorie soda alternatives.

Considering the campaign’s objective to be identical to the Australian objective of raising awareness and driving sales, this one likely is another success story for Coca-Cola’s marketing campaigns.  Personalized labels and engagement across social platforms help to increase Share a Coke’s publicity.  And consumers seeking out these custom bottles will certainly help fuel sales, where they get the added benefit of finding their own, customized bottle of refreshment.  This certainly fits into their overarching “Over Happiness” campaign.  Here’s the first clip to highlight The Sharing Begins.

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Nestea and Lipton Go After AriZona

Nestea's new 695ml cans to compete head-to-head with AriZona.  Courtesy of facebook.com
Nestea’s new 695ml cans to compete head-to-head with AriZona. Courtesy of facebook.com

Each summer I pay a little more attention to monitor the Ready-to-Drink (RTD) tea segment.  Some of my beverage industry contacts say that AriZona’s dominance in the RTD tea segment have inspired other beverage companies to launch similar $0.99 tall cans to steal some of AriZona’s sales.  Most recently, I’ve noticed both Nestea and Lipton stock some competitive offerings.  Both have come out with tall cans of tea, with similar $0.99 price points labeled on the cans themselves.  Given that AriZona has made $0.99 teas their claim to fame and have been selling them for many years already, how successful will Nestea and Lipton be at stealing some sales?  More importantly, is selling tea at $0.99 profitable for Nestea and Lipton, or is there another reason for them to enter this segment?

Unlike AriZona, Nestea and Lipton have strong backers.  Nestea’s partnership with Coca-Cola provides them a robust distribution network.  Lipton also has a strong market coverage through their agreement with PepsiCo.  Both competitive brands would be able to leverage the sales and merchandising support of Coca-Cola and Pepsi to ensure retailer shelves are always stocked.  Beyond retail coverage, both Nestea and Lipton would get premium in-store placement locations.  Coca-Cola and Pepsi both own front-end cooler space as well as multiple locations within a grocery store, giving them the opportunity to stock products to their liking within these areas.  So unlike previous challengers, AriZona will face their strongest competition yet in Nestea and Lipton.  These two competitors have the necessary support and expertise to erode AriZona’s leadership in this segment.

Nestea's new 695ml cans to compete head-to-head with AriZona.
Nestea’s new 695ml cans to compete head-to-head with AriZona.

Given these dynamics, it certainly appears that Nestea and Lipton stand as formidable opponents to AriZona and steal their sales.  However, both Nestea and Lipton are known best for their offerings in a different tea format: bottled tea.  By rolling out these $0.99 aluminum cans, don’t they risk cannibalizing their own sales from a more profitable tea format?  Wouldn’t this make the decision to launch 695ml tea cans with $0.99 printed on it hurt their total tea business?  Given the risk associated with devaluing sales potential, why come out with tall cans at all?  In the end, they are just as likely to steal sales from AriZona as they are on stealing their own sales.

Simply put, it may be better to get less dollars from the consumer, than get none at all.  If their market research indicates that the same consumers buy both bottled tea and canned tea, both Nestea and Lipton have much to lose by not having a canned tea offering themselves.  And given the price range of canned and bottled tea, it would appear that canned teas serve as the “value” segment to get people to buy a tea product.  Bottled tea appears to serve more as a “mid-value” or “premium” segment.  Should Nestea & Lipton leave AriZona to own the value tea, it will be much harder to steal that tea customer away at a later point when they are interested in moving up the value chain to premium tea.

As long as you can get them to buy (or try) your drink once, you’ll stand a chance to get them to come by as a repeat customer.  Even if the immediate value is $0.99, there could be opportunities to get these thirsty consumers to buy the more expensive bottled tea at a later time.

vitaminwater Refreshes Canadian Product Portfolio

The @vitaminwater_caa twitter headshot, current as of July 2014. Courtesy of twitter.com
vitaminwater Canada product line-up from their twitter page head shot as of July 2014.  Courtesy of @vitaminwater_ca (twitter.com)

It seems vitaminwater has recognized the limit on how many drink flavors can be sustained in the Canadian marketplace.  That number stands at twelve.  The hydration brand has quietly launched two new flavors under their Zero sub-brand, introducing Rise (orange) and Squeezed (lemonade) to build their calorie-free portfolio.  Very subtly, two of the previous zero-calorie flavors – Resilient-C (grape raspberry) and Recoup (peach mandarin) – are being phased out to make space for the two new offerings.  Beyond the zero-calorie product transition, Spark (grape blueberry) also is being phased out.  Notice the different flavors in the image above and below (Recoup has never been pictured).  It’s certainly interesting to see that the marketplace – and retailers – can sustain twelve flavor extensions.  Definitely not an easy feat to create shelf or cooler space for twelve items.

What is more interesting though, is vitaminwater’s approach to continuously refresh their product line-up.  While there has always been steady sales coming from popular flavors such as XXX, Essential, and Multi-V, there are “test” flavors launched into Canada.  From the hydration brand’s introduction, Rescue (green tea) was the first to be discontinued.  Through the years, other flavors have made brief appearances and slowly gone away, including Formula 50 (grape) and Sync (Berry Cherry).  And beyond these flavors that were expected to mainstays were limited-time offerings, such as the recent Glory (peach mango) flavor for the 2014 Olympics.  Regardless of all these other changes, the magic number – or limit – appears to be twelve flavors.

Despite a mixed response leading to varied success and failure, their constant innovation is admirable.  The company keeps on bringing flavors into the market to see what sticks with consumers.  It would be safe to say that vitaminwater has introduced up to twenty flavors at one point or another to the Canadian market.  Beyond the original eight flavors that accompanied the Rescue offering at launch, the most successful introduction has been Energy (tropical citrus).  Most of the grape flavors – Spark, Formula 50, Resilient-C – have only made brief and unsuccessful appearances.

vitwaminwater Canadian product line-up as of July 2012.  Courtesy of @vitaminwater_bc (twitter.com)
vitwaminwater Canada product line-up as of July 2012. Courtesy of @vitaminwater_bc (twitter.com)

Regardless of success or failure, it is a welcome sign to see a company continuously improve their product line-up.  Before an item can be launched, a company invests significantly behind research and development to determine its viability, demand, and sales potential.  And to consistently bring new products to the market, this is a sign that vitaminwater believes in the product’s longevity.  Even with product proliferation being a key concern that prevents retailers from stocking all the flavors, substituting new products in place of slower selling products helps both parties.

After all the product substitution, let’s just hope that vitaminwater eventually finds a grape flavor product combination that will stick in the Canadian marketplace.

Red Bull Celebrates Summer With New Flavor

The new Red Bull Summer Edition is available exclusively at 7-Eleven locations across Canada and the U.S.
The new Red Bull Summer Edition is available exclusively at 7-Eleven locations across Canada and the U.S.

Building on their momentum of the Red Bull Editions, the energy drink manufacturer will launch a new flavor exclusive to 7-Eleven locations in Canada and the U.S.  Aptly named the “Summer Edition”, the drink’s packaging is a sunny-yellow colored 12oz (355ml) can.  The tropical fruit-flavored drink adds to the Red Bull Editions line-up of the Red (cranberry), Blue (blueberry), and Silver (lime) flavor offerings.  7-Eleven has exclusivity of the Summer Edition in July and August, with a consumer promotion running until September 2nd (per the corporate 7-Eleven news release).  After that, no guarantees whether this becomes available across other retailers or it is truly an exclusive, limited-time offering.  If history proves to be repeated, then the Summer Edition will be here to stay.  Red Bull had previously launched their Red Bull Editions exclusive to 7-Eleven in March, followed by availability at other retailers a few months later.

It’s not the first time beverage companies have partnered with 7-Eleven for exclusive offerings.  Most recently, Gatorade had launched their Gatorade Fierce Green Apple flavor exclusively with the convenience retailer.  The results of that launch is detailed in this Pepsico news release.  The proven success of exclusive launches help 7-Eleven secure more preferred agreements with other beverage manufacturers.  After all, the convenience retail channel generates healthy sales and even healthier profit margins.  And with 7-Eleven adding more retail locations across North America, they certainly have the clout to command more customized products.  For Red Bull, this arrangement is preferable since it helps the energy drink manufacturer lock up more valuable shelf space in the nation’s leading convenience retail chain.  In addition, this also allows them to focus their advertising support behind one product at one retailer, helping to drive a stronger, more focused message.

Red Bull has previously launched the Red Bull Editions exclusive to 7-Eleven before opening it up to all retailers.  Courtesy of flippies.com
Red Bull has previously launched the Red Bull Editions exclusive to 7-Eleven before opening it up to all retailers. Courtesy of flippies.com

In BevNet.com’s article on the Red Bull launch, the publication detailed that Red Bull is slower to launch new products relative Monster Energy, leading to slower sales growth (link here).  The comment is not without merit, as it appears that Red Bull’s sales are more reliant on existing drinks rather than new innovations – especially with a innovation history that includes unsuccessful attempts to diversify with  Red Bull Cola and Red Bull Energy Shots.  However, their recent product launches came from an area where they are the clear leaders and have been quite successful.  And with fewer launches, Red Bull is able to put more attention into each launch, and ensure that it receives full support across media outlets as well as.  Case in point: their launch efforts behind Red Bull Total Zero and the Red Bull Editions have been well executed with media and in-store support.  Even their BULL Energy Drink has garnered strong attention despite catering the beverage to a highly specific market.

The lower frequency also helps Red Bull convey a stronger brand presence that coincides with their premium pricing.  Fewer launches highlight a prestige that will be harder to sustain if launches become fast and frequent.  So with the Summer Edition now available in 7-Eleven, let’s see how Red Bull celebrates with their Summer Edition.  It won’t be forever until they have another product launch, but it will surely be after they make sure the Summer Edition is successfully entrenched with  the customers and consumers.