AUSTIN, TX: Coca-Cola, the iconic soft drink, is experimenting with product personalisation and customisation in reflection of evolving consumer needs.

Dan White, President/McDonald's Division North America at The Coca-Cola Co. – and who thus leads one of the firm's largest internal divisions – discussed this subject at South by Southwest (SXSW) 2016.

And he pointed to programs like "It's Mine", an effort from Diet Coke featuring over ten million unique designs on packaging, as well as Share a Coke, where popular first names were printed on cans and bottles in various markets.

"In some ways, inside of our own companies, I feel as if we're playing a massive game of catch up," said White. (For more, including further details of its strategy in this space, read Warc's exclusive report: Coca-Cola gets a taste for product personalisation.)

"We're catching up with what consumers want, and need, and they're getting from other places in their lives – and they are getting predominantly from phones, computers, and places where they're able to customise their own experiences," he added. "So we're trying on a bunch of things on for size."

Another offering that allows consumers to individualise the product experience is Coca-Cola's Freestyle drinks fountain, where customers can mix beverages using their preferred flavours from across the company's portfolio.

For blue-chip brands such as Coke, White asserted, the idea of surrendering control in this way typically prompts vigorous internal debates about the extent to which people are able to "mess with" a classic formula.

"Contemporary icons change all the time. The difference between them is watching the Rolling Stones on stage and saying you want those people to sing it exactly how it was sung before, and don't change it," said White.

"Now when you go and see Taylor Swift or Selena Gomez – contemporary icons – they are always changing. In fact, they have to change to keep up.

"So, maybe we just don't have it right when we think about what the brand standards are around classic icons, and we have to evolve to meet today's consumers. That's probably where we're at, and that's the inflection point where brands and people really get twisted around."

Data sourced from Warc