Coke Zero's UK Debut Targets 'Real Men' PDF Print E-mail
July 10, 2006

LONDON: The Coca-Cola Co. hopes to appeal to British men - and gain traction in the growing global market for healthier products - with the launch of its new Coke Zero brand here Monday.

Dubbed "Bloke Coke" by the British media, the no-sugar drink represents the most important launch in the UK for Atlanta-based Coca-Cola since Diet Coke was rolled out 22 years ago, according to company officials.

A $14 million British ad campaign, which targets health-conscious males who find Diet Coke too feminine, uses the tag line "Great Coke taste with zero sugar."

The campaign will include a TV spot featuring a supposedly average Coke Zero drinker called Dan. After expressing surprise that Coke can still taste delicious without the sugar, he goes on to dream up other examples of great things in life without the downsides. Examples include "work mates without work," "girlfriends without five-year plans," "bras without the fumbling," and "holidays without having to come home."

In addition to TV spots, the campaign will rely heavily on outdoor and Internet advertising as well as the distribution of 4 million sample Coke Zeros across Britain.

Much of the advertising will feature British singer Cheryl Tweedy from the pop band Girls Aloud, who has become well known here following her engagement to English soccer player Ashley Cole.

Australia, the United States, and Britain are so far the only markets in which Coke Zero has been launched, and early signs have been positive.

In Australia, where the product was launched in January, the cola segment has seen a surge in sales of 19 percent within just one eight-week period, according to company officials.

Caroline Levy, an analyst at UBS, said that although Coke Zero has been a very modest addition to the company's U.S. sales, "It has been a home run in Australia."

"And so my bet is that, with the current heat wave, the company will have the wind at its back for the launch in Britain and I think it will be successful," she said.

But Levy warned that the company would need to avoid any negative press related to its sweeteners while, at the same time, putting a lot of effort into its packaging.

The company has said that Coke Zero would be packaged in red and black containers that are believed to be more masculine-looking than the traditional red and white.

The company is particularly keen to gain ground in Britain, where the value of Coca-Cola sales climbed by just the rate of inflation last year, or about 2 percent.

Light carbonated soft drinks account for more than 40 percent of carbonated soft drinks sold in Britain and are forecast to be in growth mode over the next few years.

Cathryn Sleight, marketing director for Coca-Cola Great Britain, said the advertising campaign's goal is to grow Coke Zero to be as big as Diet Coke in 10 years' time.

"With our creative and media strategy, we're confident that we've created a campaign that's not only entertaining and engaging for a young male audience, but one that will excite them and ensure that they can't miss the fact that Coca-Cola Zero has arrived," she said.

John Noble, director of the British Brands Group, said Coca-Cola's high hopes for Coke Zero aren't misplaced, noting that the company's products haven't generally come with the same kind of baggage as products from other U.S. companies operating in Europe - many of which have been struck by a wave of anti-Americanism in recent years.

"The company has been in the United Kingdom a long time and is sufficiently iconic," he said. "It bottles in the U.K. and has made a lot of investment here."

But Jim Gregory, chief executive of CoreBrand, a brand consultancy based in Stamford, Connecticut, said it's not clear whether Coke Zero will be such a success that it helps Coca-Cola reverse some of the gains made by PepsiCo, which markets its own macho brand called Max.

He said that, according to CoreBrand's branding index, PepsiCo has been growing at a faster rate than Coca-Cola in terms of power and value.

"Additionally, our brand intelligence team feels that Coca-Cola might be diluting its brand by confusing the consumer with too many different products," he said.

But Sleight said Coca-Cola is launching Coke Zero to offer customers as much choice as possible.

Cox News Service