Coca-Cola North America means business in 2005. "We're ready to start the year with a bang," rah-rahs Randy Ransom, marketing boss for the beverage brand north of Mexico.

Ransom's enthusiasm is fueled by a 20% boost in advertising and new product development budgets - as promised in November by new ceo E Neville Isdell. At the same time, Isdell trimmed Coke's long term forecast for annual volume growth from 5% to 6% to a more realistic 3%-4%.

But now the new ceo and his team have to deliver. According to Beverage Digest editor John Sicher: "Coke needs to have an aggressive innovation program this year. Bottlers are saying they need more new products, and Coke has heard them and is responding."

North American case volume declined 3% in the third quarter of 2004 and the company's carbonated drink unit is badly in need of a turbocharge.

Among the planned initiatives are ...

New Cokes

  • The success of Diet Coke with Lime will be followed up by Regular Coca-Cola with Lime, rollout due by the end of March.

  • A new diet drink tentatively branded Coke Zero, could line up with Diet Coke, the # 1 diet soft drink. The former would be sweetened with sucralose, instead of aspartame, the chemical of choice in Diet Coke.

  • Coke also is mulling Vault, a new citrus-flavored soft drink, to challenge PepsiCo's top-selling citrus product, Mountain Dew.

    Water flavors
  • Coke's strong-selling Dasani water gets lemon and raspberry flavored varieties by April.

    Energy drink
  • Next month, Coke will launch 16-ounce Full Throttle with $5 million (€3.84m; £2.67m) to $10m in print and outdoor ads. It will challenge energy leader Red Bull, sold in 8-ounce cans. Double-sized Full Throttle will match Red Bull's price ($1.99 to $2.99 a can).

    On the campaign front, new Classic Coke ads broke on Tuesday amid the opening of the brand's fourth-season sponsorship of Fox's UK-inspired reality format, American Idol. The new ad theme, 'Make it Real' is largely based on Coke's previous 'Real' ad campaign.

    The new marketing strategy is in the hands of an equally new team. Earlier this month, Melody Justice became head of Coke's US retail division and John Hackett became head of marketing, North America [WAMN: 06-Jan-05].

    Data sourced from USA Today Online; additional content by WARC staff