Three weeks ago it was an ice bottle in Colombia. This week it’s a green bottle in Argentina.
‘Coca Cola Life’ as it has been branded, is a new formulation of the world’s favourite soft drink that includes a mix of sugar and naturally sourced sugar substitute Stevia. As a result a 600 ml bottle has only 108 calories compared to the usual 250.
In addition Coca-Cola Life is packaged in the company’s PlantBottle, which is the first recyclable bottle made from petroleum-based materials and up to 30% plant-based materials. The hope is to create a 100% plant-based bottle in the future.
To wrap it all up, the new bottle has a rather undelicious and unrefreshing green label –surprisingly close to the ‘don’t smoke me’ olive green now used on Australian fag packets.
Executional questions aside, the new product highlights a real debate about how companies should approach green issues. Should they use green improvements as tactical/promotional devices like Coke Life seems to? Or should they embody them deep in the strategic direction of the company -like Unilever?
There is a school of thought that goes, because governments and consumers are too short term and expedient in their thinking, the lead on environmental issues has to come from corporations. Unilever has acted radically to help address this short termism by making profound adjustments to the way it operates. Most notably it has abolished quarterly financial reporting.
In contrast Coca Cola Life has all the appearance of a consumer option, not a company compulsion. In fairness to Coca Cola, while Coke Life looks like a tactical response to the environmental issue, it is quietly rolling out the Plantbottle in nine different countries. So it is serious.
But in Argentina Coke may have taken the route it has because it has a rather unique problem. One that many brands would love to have. The brand has become a straightjacket. Coke consumers are so loyal and so traditional that it cannot mess with its ingredients. Remember the New Coke fiasco in the 1980’s?
It would have been impossible for Coca Cola to launch this product under the classic Coke livery. But this puts it in a quandary. How do you embody profound changes in your product if your consumers wont let you? ENDS