AUSTIN, TX: Coca-Cola's "master brand" strategy, where the beverage line takes a more holistic approach to marketing its four main variants, is reflecting new consumer attitudes and may point the way towards in-house change.

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

"Right now, what we're doing in some of the countries around the world with Coke is having a thing called a 'master brand'," said White.

"This would mean that all Coke, Diet Coke, Coke Zero and Coke Life would fall under a 'master brand' of Coke, and then have a different colour denomination around that."

Such an idea was evidenced earlier this year as Coca-Cola unveiled its new "Taste the Feeling" campaign, replacing its long-running "Open Happiness" positioning, as it explicitly shifted towards promoting the Coke portfolio. (For more, read Warc's report: Understanding Coca-Cola's "One Brand" strategy.)

That approach, White continued, was "smart" because consumers want their favourite brands to provide choice while also being consistent and authentic.

"When the consumer looks at a Coke franchise – and a Coke brand that is enduring over time – consumers' wants and needs have changed," he reported.

"Today, it is less efficient to have that customisation by brand and spend. So we've got, say, Taylor Swift on Diet Coke and Conrad Sewell on Coke, and then we're parsing this idea of what consumers want and need inside of an environment that isn't real."

Adapting its attempts to engage consumers, White asserted, may require a similar shift in thinking and behaviour behind the scenes.

"There's a legacy system that has a bunch of brand managers with a bunch of marketing, and a bunch of direct marketing expenditures, and a bunch of line-item expenditures and a bunch of financial systems that are not set up to do that," White said.

"Our brands will say, 'The Diet Coke consumer is this. The Coke consumer is this.' Well the reality is: it just doesn't exist like that. It's a clean, neat way for us to get to media spend and org structures and execution in the marketplace.

"And my belief is that the customisation that we've done internally actually holds us back, because consumers are blurring those categories all the time."

Data sourced from Warc