Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Coke's Unbelievable Branding

The opening ceremony for the 2012 London Olympic Games is less than month away.  Athletes from all over the world will be competing for gold medals, while marketers blessed with budgets big enough will be there to fulfill a different type of golden opportunity.

A brand that always makes the trip to the Olympics is Coca-Cola.  According to a report from AdAge, Coke's strategy is to use the global athletic platform to debunk the perception that Coca-Cola is bad for your health by connecting Coca-Cola with the athletes who are representing the United States in the games and who, if I may go out on a limb, don't include Cokes as part of their training regimen.

Coca-Cola executive Katie Bayne explains their Olympic pitch to consumers by saying "We have a timeless commitment to enhance well-being in all of its forms. Encouraging people to get active, and providing them with opportunities to do so, has always been at the heart of our brand values."  

When I read the quote, I hear a lot more crisis management than great reasons we all should be drinking Coke.  It's a defensive quote because people don't associate Coke with active and healthy.  Can you blame them when Coke is the number one option complementing every high-calorie fast food meal and their doctor recommends they cut back on the drink?

Connecting Coke to healthy is just not believable at all.  Therefore, Coca-Cola attempting to do so, with or without the backdrop of the Olympics, is a bad idea and won't benefit the brand. In fact, engaging in a dialogue they're sure to lose, will actually be destructive to the brand.  Their marketing should tell people why they made the right choice by reaching for a Coke, not reminding them that it's only a small part of what's making them fat. 

The obvious connection Coca-Cola should be making on the Olympic stage is one of patriotism.  Coca-Cola is classically American.  Who's going to argue that that's a bad thing, especially during the Olympics?  And get this, it's true too.  

In fact, patriotism should be Coca-Cola's response to critics who blame it for society's health problems.  Like freedom itself, Coca-Cola is a pillar of American society.  Their rebuttal should be that in the land that protects freedom at all costs, people should have the right to choose for themselves something as simple as what they want to drink.  Even if that means reaching for something as innocuous as a little Coca-Cola.

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