Don’t Mess With Your Customers

There are two kinds of marketing. One kind of marketing actually looks at what consumers need and want and then tries to provide a service that matches these desires. The other (and more questionable style) tries to create a desire that isn’t already there. Coca Cola tried to take advantage of the latter and the results weren’t exactly as expected.

Coca-Cola Soft Drinks

Coca-Cola Soft Drinks

Last month Coca Cola released the earnings from the first half of the year. Despite implementing a strategy to try and increase its alcoholic beverage sales, the performance of this division lagged significantly.

What did they do?

Teaming up with global alcoholic beverage brand Beam, Coca Cola focussed on the popular ready-to-drink Jim Beam six-pack. The popularity of this product formed the centre of a strategy to sell more stock by removing the popular six-pack from the market in an attempt to force customers to trade up to an eight-pack.

This is the ‘other’, more questionable style of marketing that I am talking about. There wasn’t previously a need for consumers to purchase the eight-pack at the same rate as the popular six-pack, but by removing the six-pack Coca Cola was attempting to influence their consumers into developing a new desire.

Believe it or not, the gods of marketing have a conscience.

This strategy didn’t actually work for the company. In place of the six-pack, consumers were resistant to trade up to the eight-pack and instead traded down to the four-pack. Not only did this result in a lack of growth in the eight-pack sales but it crunched overall alcoholic beverage sales with consumers either turning to the smaller product or mixing their own drinks at home.

This unfortunate turn of events for the soft drink company serves as an important reminder that marketing isn’t there to influence people. The art of understanding the customer shouldn’t be used to try and force their hand, but rather to understand what they are looking for in a service and how it can best be provided. That is when your marketing will result in the development of strong consumer relationships that will bring great value in the future.

In place of this strategy, Coca Cola have gone with a new (less deceptive) angle to try and replenish the demand for their spirits product line. Trying to get spirits “out of the fridge and off back bars and into consumers’ hands”, Coca Cola and Beam have employed a range of mixologists to create several cocktails which will be promoted within bars by brand ambassadors. These cocktails, including one called Penicillin, may be just what the doctor ordered.