written by: Lau Hiu Tung, Hailey

Over the past 130 years, Coca-Cola has been the world’s no.1 beverage brand, possessing both outstanding global equity and massive customer base. Its flagship product has been promoted under various theme and campaigns, which further created idiosyncratic brand values. For the last 7 years, Coca-Cola successfully linked itself with a lifestyle of sharing happiness by adopting the theme “Open Happiness”. Shifting away from the old theme, Coca-Cola embarked on a new chapter by pivoting a new positioning. Started off by unifying its 4 variants (the original Coke, diet Coke, Coke Zero and Coke Life) into an integrated campaign, Coca-Cola came to life with a single umbrella message: “Taste the feeling”.

Marcos de Quinto, the global CMO of Coca-Cola, explained the new “one-brand strategy” as a change from entirely emotional to storytelling, reflecting the functional and emotional aspects of the Coca-Cola experience. Critiques reviewed the theme-switching action as a fall back in value-building, an issue of which I have some comments to make.

During Christmas in 2016, Coca-Cola introduced “The Last Customer” campaign in the Philippines under the new theme, sending surprises to those who sacrificed and worked tirelessly to make the season special. A box of present for a gift-wrapping clerk, a cart of commodities for a grocery bagger, a family meal for a night-shifted waiter… 3 of the stories were featured for the promotion video, and 50,000 people were paid tribute. The campaign received much positive responses, from praising Coca-Cola’s ability to make things possible, to appreciating its sensitivity towards people’s feelings

Coca-Cola did not leave its emotional appeal behind. Instead of equating the brand with happiness, Coca-Cola emphasized the simplicity of pleasure, and connected itself with everyday moments in a broader way. It created resonance by entering into customers’ daily life and feeling what they feel. By covering topics on brotherly love, break-ups, pressure etc., Coca-Cola aims to echo different experiences and emotions that people encounter. We get a clear message: Coke can bring a slice of pleasure to every life moment; all we need to do is to hold a can/bottle in our hands.

Despite such emphasis on emotional appeal, Coca-Cola also stressed its well-recognized functional value, authentic “taste”, as a backdrop for the campaign development. As the brand grows, it recognizes that people tend to love the brand spirit more than its products. Coca-Cola attempts to reconnect people’s passion toward the brand with its products by delivering messages of “taste”. Moreover, by unifying its product diversification, Coca-Cola reinforces its commitment towards consumers’ choice, which also benefits its business by sharing all equities carried by the brand family members. As such, I do not view this functional approach as a drawback. Rather, it helps to strengthen the emotional tie and the salient feature of product in customers’ mind.

Having product at its heart, the new global brand campaign is an uplift in storytelling: from multiple brands to one, from happiness to feeling. While sales are dropping and soda consumption keeps falling due to health concern; whether the new campaign could turn the situation around, is for us to find out?


Poster of “Taste the Feeling”

Baker, R. (2016). Coca-Cola makes biggest ever shift to global marketing. Retrieved February 26, 2017, from http://www.adnews.com.au/news/coca-cola-makes-biggest-ever-shift-to-global-marketing

Buss, D. (2016). ‘Taste the Feeling’: In Major Shift, Coca-Cola Pivots From ‘Open Happiness’. Retrieved February 26, 2017, from http://www.brandchannel.com/2016/01/19/coca-cola-taste-the-feeling-011916/

Coca-Cola – Taste The Feeling. Retrieved February 26, 2017, from https://tastethefeeling.coca-cola.com/us/

COCA-COLA: The Last Customer. Retrieved February 26, 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i-oVg_Ga4Ks

From ‘Open Happiness’ to ‘Taste the Feeling’: Coke’s struggle with emotion vs function. Retrieved February 26, 2017, from http://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/1380310/open-happiness-taste-feeling-cokes-struggle-emotion-vs-function

Kell, J. (2016). Soda Consumption Falls to 30-Year Low In The U.S. Retrieved February 27, 2017, from http://fortune.com/2016/03/29/soda-sales-drop-11th-year/

Moye, J. (2016). Coca-Cola Announces New ‘One Brand’ Marketing Strategy and Global Campaign. Retrieved February 26, 2017, from http://www.coca-colacompany.com/stories/taste-the-feeling-launch

Taylor, K. (2016). Coca-Cola’s business shows a bleak future for soda. Retrieved February 27, 2017, from http://www.businessinsider.com/coca-cola-soda-sales-down-by-volume-2016-7