"We've failed to communicate clearly enough the product differentiation," Bobby Brittain, GB Marketing Director for Coca-Cola, told Marketing Week. "That's a major wakeup call for us. We need to ensure that we are enabling consumers to make an informed choice."
While treating Coca-Cola, Diet Coke, Coca-Cola Zero and the most recent addition to the portfolio, Coca-Cola Life, as separate products might be thought to ensure product differentiation, consumer research showed that half of consumers were not aware that Coke Zero has no sugar and no calories and many were unsure about the difference between Coke Zero and Diet Coke.
"When people think about Coca-Cola now there is an immediate jump to the product with sugar in it," Brittain explained to Marketing. "Our ambition is that over time when people think of Coca-Cola they think about the choice that is available to them under that."
Accordingly, marketing will place much greater emphasis in future on making clear the product benefits of the lower calorie options.
"There won't be any of the brand wrapping and positioning – all we will talk about is the product differentiation so that people can understand the choice we're offering."
And while this approach would not benefit the main brand as much as the newer ones, that was not a problem, as Brittain said he was aiming for half of all Coca-Cola brand to come from these lower calorie products by 2020.
"When we tell people and have them understand the choice that's available to them we're convinced they will make more choices more often," he said.
The new approach will roll out across the UK and western Europe from May, although the full integration of Diet Coke into the strategy may take a little longer.
Brittain added: "It's a quarter of our business in Great Britain and too important to potentially disenfranchise people for whom Diet Coke as a brand is important."
Data sourced from Marketing Week, Marketing; additional content by Warc staff