GLOBAL BRIEF: Coca-Cola goes on the attack [SH] Nick Peters reports on the tactics behind Coca-Cola’s two latest drink launches.

Staying on top of the world’s beverage industry means two things to Coca-Cola - strengthening its core Coke and Sprite brands and going head-to-head with competitors’ products that dominate niches in the soft drinks market.

Staying on top of the world’s beverage industry means two things to

Coca-Cola - strengthening its core Coke and Sprite brands and going

head-to-head with competitors’ products that dominate niches in the soft

drinks market.



The success of this strategy, masterminded by the chief marketing

officer, Sergio Zyman, is mixed at best. Coke is the world’s most

popular soft drink and, by refreshing the growing pool of agencies

handling the account, Zyman is helping Coke outperform the market by a

significant margin.



But he would wish for more from the other element of this strategy,

which has a poor record. It is about to be put to the test again with

the announcement of the second new product from Coca-Cola within months.

Citra is aimed squarely at Cadbury Schweppes’s grapefruit-based drink,

Squirt. The San Francisco-based agency, Goldberg Moser O’Neill, has

landed the dollars 40 million launch. The size of the budget has raised

eyebrows, given that Squirt occupies only 0.6 per cent of the market.

About the same amount is being spent on the launch, at the end of

January, of Surge, a lemon-lime drink aimed at Pepsi-Cola’s Mountain Dew

which dominates the heavy-citrus market with a 6 per cent share.



Observers are watching these launches for signs that Coca-Cola’s attacks

on competitors have started to pay off. Having been burned by the

disastrous launch of New Coke in 1985, one of the great marketing

fiascos of all time and which Zyman personally masterminded, Coca-Cola

has eschewed innovation, preferring to make life difficult for

competitors.



Mello-Yello was its first attempt to chip away at Mountain Dew and it

managed, at most, to take 10 per cent of market share. Mr Pibb was a

weak assault on Cadbury Schweppes’s Dr Pepper. Coca-Cola’s Fruitopia was

beaten by Oasis in its sector and was withdrawn from sale in the UK in

December.



The last time Coca-Cola had a successful new product launch was in 1983

with Diet Coke, a clone of its own top product. Zyman must be hoping he

will not be the one with the headache once the products hit the market.



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