Coca-cola consolidates marketing for namesake colas

NEW YORK -- Coca-Cola, under pressure as many people look to cut back on sugary drinks, is unveiling a new global campaign that for the first time unites its flagship cola with lower-calorie versions.

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The Atlanta company says the "Taste the Feeling" campaign will feature Coke as well as variations such as Diet Coke and Coke Zero. The effort replaces its "Open Happiness" campaign, which launched in 2009.

Coke is underscoring the various options that it offers to consumers at a time when sugary drinks are increasingly linked to obesity. Globally, the company still gets about three-quarters of its sales full-calorie drinks that include Sprite, Powerade and Simply orange juice.

The company did not provide a breakdown of how much of its sales come from its traditional cola. But in a phone interview, Chief Marketing Officer Marcos de Quinto said it didn't matter whether original Coke ends up being just 20 per cent of sales over time.

The new strategy is meant to convey that all the variations are a single brand, rather than competing products with different personalities, he said. Individual markets such as the U.S. will determine how to adapt the global strategy locally.

In Chile, Russia and Spain, the company is already testing its Coke lineup with cans that look more alike. The top halves of Coke, Diet Coke and Coke Zero cans are all red, while the bottom halves denote the variation.

De Quinto said it was too soon to determine whether similar packaging would be rolled out elsewhere, but that the pilot has worked well in those markets.

The new campaign arrives as Coke struggles to push up sales, with its soda volume up just 1 per cent for the first nine months of the year. Coke CEO Muhtar Kent has promised to lift sales with stepped marketing.

In 2014, Coke spent $3.5 billion on ads, up from $3.3 billion the previous year. That reflects costs of print, radio and TV ads, but does not capture all the company's sponsorships and other marketing efforts.

Coke says the "Taste the Feeling" ads will play up the experience of drinking a Coke. Ads from the campaign released online Tuesday still featured regular Coke most prominently, with other versions making appearances.

The campaign will roll out around the world this year. It will include 10 television commercials and photographs that will be used for print advertisements, billboards, in stores and online.

Shares of Coca-Cola Co. are down 2.4 per cent over the year. PepsiCo is down 3.5 per cent.



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