Over the years, Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO) has created advertising as iconic as its "red wave" logo, but its newest campaign could be among its most ambitious to invigorate sales and its stock.
Across Europe, Coke is replacing its own brand name with personalized names that are among the 150 most popular in the local markets it's targeting. Begun first in Australia two years ago, the beverage maker is expanding the campaign to 32 countries across the continent. If your name doesn't appear, you can visit a kiosk to have one personalized for you.
Companies have been experimenting for some time with using their label for further imprinting their brand on our brains. H.J. Heinz (NYSE: HNZ) offers up personalized ketchup bottles, but they're more of a limited-run novelty. It also more broadly offers other labels with witty or pithy sayings on them, more reminiscent of Dr. Pepper Snapple Group's fun facts found under their bottle caps than something that would allow a person to identify with a product.
The label, as a mini-billboard for a business' brand, have been tinkered with to create a new, different, or refreshed image. Over the years, General Mills (NYSE: GIS) has updated both Betty Crocker and its Pillsbury Doughboy, while PepsiCo's (NYSE: PEP) Quaker Oats slimmed down its Quaker mascot "Larry" while also modernizing Aunt Jemima. The Campbell Soup kids were also slimmed down a few years ago to highlight a healthier image.
More recently, other brands have sought to change their label in hopes of boosting stagnating sales. Boston Beer updated its Samuel Adams brand, hoping to reverse slowing sales of the craft brew, while Walgreen (NYSE: WAG) brought all of its private-label brands under a new, updated Nice! label.
Personalization such as what Coke is doing, however, is a different means of making a connection with the consumer. While you might end up having to drink someone else's "brand" if your name isn't so popular, it points to the marketing muscle Big Red carries that it can launch such a strategy.
Yet the name game does carry risk. Apparently there are no Arabic names in its Israeli campaign, despite an Arab population in the country of 1.5 million. And it's prohibited the use of the name "Mohammed" in Sweden, despite its ubiquity, because it wisely didn't want to use the religious prophet's name used in conjunction with a commercial enterprise.
The initial Australian launch caused sales to rise Down Under by 4%, so rolling out the "share a Coke" campaign across Europe indicates that it wants to reverse the 6% slide in revenues it experienced in the fourth quarter of 2012 that was followed by 2% decline in the first quarter of this year.
Coca-Cola just might be able to teach the world to sing its praises once more.
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