Topic Talk Thursday – Did Coke Make a Marketing Mistake?

Hola Todos!

Today’s Topic Talk is from Justin Canning, a student from my MBA Marketing Management class last semester.  Justin asks an interesting question, “Did Coca-Cola make a marketing mistake with their new ‘polar bears’ cans?”

In short, Coca-Cola came out with these Polar Bear cans as a Corporate Social Responsibility campaign to raise awareness of to the plight of the polar bear in the Arctic. However, an ABC news report (click here) and a Wall Street Journal report (click here) detail nothing other than consumer confusion, despite the good intentions.

In the Wall Street Journal report, Scott Williamson, a spokesman for Coke said, “This year’s campaign is part of a partnership with the World Wildlife Fund to highlight global warming’s threat to bears’ Arctic habitat. Coke is contributing up to $3 million to conservation efforts.  The white can resonated with us because it was bold, attention-grabbing” and “reinforced” the campaign theme.”  The article goes on to detail that Coke wanted a “disruptive campaign to get consumers’ attention.”  Unfortunately for Coke, they did get a disruptive campaign, but it was disruptive in an unintended way.

Justin, the floor is yours….


Dr. Dan-O,

This subject was brought up a couple times in our Topic Talk discussions (once by me), and since then I’ve taken notice to its subsequent development.  I’ve been doing an unofficial study on the new white Coke cans.  I am in charge of stocking the refrigerator for our floor, and have typically noticed that before the white cans came out, I was restocking the Diet Coke about 3-4 times as frequently as I was the regular Coke.  I was told to barely even keep any regular Coke at all in there, because everyone drinks Diet Coke and Coke Zero and Vitamin Zero and the like.  However, since the white cans have come out, people have been drinking these at almost a 2:1 (Coke:Diet Coke) rate!  I honestly think people don’t even notice the difference when they first grab it.  My boss’s assistant, a huge health nut, has been grabbing a handful of the white Coke cans and putting them on the conference room table for big meetings, instead of the Diet Coke.

I figure there is actually a pretty good mix of people who don’t notice they are grabbing a Coke can.  However, I believe some people are grabbing the regular Coke’s and drinking them, attempting to fake others out to think they are drinking Diet Coke, to look more healthy.  I think this because the ratio of Coke’s:Diet Coke’s has not decreased at all since I put the white cans out, and people surely must have noticed they were not drinking Diet Coke after their first tricky regular Coke, but still continue to grab the regular Coke’s instead of the Diet.  I have not had to restock the Diet Coke once since the white cans came out a couple weeks ago, and I usually have to once every couple of DAYS, not weeks.

Thought you might find this interesting.  Let me know if you hear of any other stories like this one.