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New Coca-Cola launch stirs mixed opinions at 1HQ

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Coca-Cola is launching its first batch of Signature Mixers under the Coke brand as it looks to expand into the growing premium mixer market. The four flavours, designed to be mixed with dark spirits, will launch in the UK from June. The 1HQ team had a lot to say about the new brand extension and, although intrigued by imaginative flavour extensions, there was debate in the office to whether we would actually try them…

“It feels like a parody of a Fever Tree positioning. Whilst coke is considered a mixer by many, that’s not its brand position. It’s almost like a child dressing up in their parent’s clothes; uncomfortable and not the right fit. One of the key features of the new bottle is the square shoulder shape, which hasn’t been part of the bottle for so long that it no longer feels like a natural / instinctive fit for the brand.”
Abbie Sheerin, Account Director

“This is bang on trend for dark spirit mixers and intriguing flavours that are more imaginative than the everyday flavour variants. These steal a march on many other mixer manufacturers toying with the same idea. I can’t wait to try them, however, I’m not sure I buy into the bottle. It would have been lovely to see them build more than the signature into the design. This feels like this is a concept pack that has been put forward to every ‘authentic’ beverage for every drinks company for the last five years (probably ten). I would have expected a more unique solution, inspired by these wine/whisky/coffee cues, but something much more dynamic and game-changing. 
Andy Kirk – Design Strategy Director

“It is an interesting approach but I’m not sure if it’s the right area for the ‘Coke brand’ to enter into as I think it conjure up craft gin connotations. I think they will struggle to play in the highly competitive ‘premium mixer’ space.”
Peter Hazon, Impackt Managing Director

“Personally, I love the bottle design even if it is so explicitly ‘trendy’. It makes me want to own one, but I don’t think I would open it. The concept is really confusing, I have no idea what it would taste like if it doesn’t taste like Coke and it looks like something I need to know how to use. This is an area dominated by artisan brands and the Coke juggernaut doesn’t really feel like it adds anything other than confusion.”
Liz Jones – Client Director

“I hated it for the first 10 seconds, but I’m now coming around to the idea. A gorgeous camera angle with beautiful embossing would elevate the pitch massively. Also, it would need to be closer to Pepsi Raw with natural ingredients and lower sugar content to be viable in its current form.”
Paul Rypniewski – Design Visualiser

“This new signature mixers design is breaking away from the industrialised corporate design to cue more transparent and honest apothecary codes using an editorial style. We known this appeals to the emerging Gen Z (7-22 year olds) and we have seen this become commonplace in other categories such as spirits and artisan oils, vinegars and baked goods. But I see three challenges for Coca Cola being able to pull this off;

  •  Is it credible for Coke to come out with this story which nods to small batch and artisan expertise when we all know they are a global corporation?
  •  Their positioning has always been around joy and taste, this is very far from that.
  •  What is their credible reason to believe on why they can do this better than others.

Saying all that I love the creative flavour combination they’ve come up here so I would go for that.
Amelia Boothman, Director of Brand & Innovation Strategy  

“I’d have to agree with both Andy and Liz – in principal I like the design of the bottle, but it doesn’t deliver any taste cues, so I wouldn’t know what to expect. The featured batch numbers are obviously meant to be a signifier of small batch production, care and artisanal craft and therefore it doesn’t feel like a natural brand extension from the manufacturing behemoth which is Coke. This makes me cynical that they are just trying to jump on the bandwagon and that the product will therefore not deliver what the design, structure and concept imply.”
Rachael Slaney, 1HQ Managing Director

Should Coke have championed and leveraged their ownable assets for this new offering, or will wearing the clothes of a challenger brand help to establish their product in an area dominated by artisan brands? Although this new launch from the Coke Juggernaut doesn’t reflect what we might expect from the global drinks giant, we are looking forward to seeing how it performs.  

For more 1HQ thoughts on Challenger Brands take a look at Cue Issue 04 ‘Break the rules’.


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