Coca-Cola will be bringing back their trademark red Coca-Cola cans, replacing this year’s Arctic white seasonal packaging. The Wall Street Journal has more information here. The short summary is that Coke drinkers – especially Diet Coke drinkers – were unhappy with the white packaging because of its resemblance to Diet Coke. The article goes on to describe how shoppers bought the wrong can from food establishments, how the red & white cans tasted different, and even told of incidents where consumers called Coca-Cola to complain about the packaging. Some critics have even gone as far as saying this is the second coming of the “New Coke” fiasco.
My interpretation is that consumers are overreacting to the seasonal packaging. Although this is the first time that the can packaging have changed to a different color, there has been numerous communications outlining that it is the same product inside the can, no matter the color. Also, the 12- and 24-pack cans still come in the red cardboard packaging, and the boxes also communicate that the red cans are now white to support the World Wildlife Foundation. It may be an issue of the shopper buying the product not paying attention to the messaging, and confuse the fact that they may have bought Diet Coke when they got home. They may even have gone back to the supermarket asking for an exchange before being told by that it is the regular Coke beverage and not Diet Coke.
For some shoppers that are fanatical about their beverages enough to call the company, not recognizing the packaging differences and the color differences may be testament of the brand’s strength. Shoppers that routinely purchase Coca-Cola may no longer be purchasing the product based on price or the packaging communication. Instead, they may be looking to make sure the price hasn’t changed dramatically (ie paying $3.99 and suddenly paying $5.99), and as long as the packaging is in the Coca-Cola red they will be picking it up.
Whether the packaging is in red or white, this helped generate numerous of media impressions for the company and the World Wildlife Foundation. The unfortunate aspect is that the media took away the true focus on this seasonal packaging, which is to raise the WWF’s profile and the company’s monetary donation to protect the polar bear’s habitat. When the red cans return, hopefully the message will go back to focusing on this aspect and not of consumers overreacting to red and white soda cans.
The red packaging will be slowly phased back into the supermarkets by mid-December and the white cans will be slowly phased out at the same time. If you’re a collector, make sure to pick up the white cans before they’re all phased out.