Diet Coke is undergoing its biggest changes in decades. But as veteran branding experts at CBX Branding Agency see it, the refreshed look and new flavors are unlikely to trigger a backlash along the lines of Tropicana’s quickly scrapped packaging fail of 2009 or the “New Coke” launch of 1985. CBX, which provides package design, strategy, verbal identity and other branding services to major consumer product manufacturers and retailers, was not involved with the Diet Coke project.
Even when it comes to an iconic brand like Diet Coke, today’s consumers are more receptive to change, in part because they so value variety, adventurism and the perception of healthier ingredients and lifestyles, wrote CBX’s Dustin Longstreth, chief marketing & chief strategy officer, and Satoru Wakeshima, chief engagement officer, in a new post at CBX.com.
The changes to America’s largest low-calorie soft drink include the introduction of four new flavors—Ginger Lime, Feisty Cherry, Zesty Blood Orange and Twisted Mango—as well as a slimmer can with more refined fonts and an emphasis on Diet Coke’s iconic silver color. Diet Coke Classic will remain unchanged.
As Longstreth and Wakeshima note in the post, today’s younger consumers yearn for variety, which the Coca-Cola Co. has clearly recognized in its new approach to Diet Coke. “Their strategy is flavor-driven, and their goal is to get people to see variety,” Wakeshima wrote in post, noting that the new look is “smart, easy to shop and clearly communicates something new from Diet Coke.”
The Coca-Cola Co., he added, aims to give consumers as many ways to enter its Coke franchise as possible, via different sizes as well as products like Diet, Cane Sugar, Classic and Zero. “And now they’re doing it again through flavor,” Wakeshima wrote.
Longstreth, meanwhile, writes that younger consumers often are suspicious of soft drinks and tend to see diet soda as both “old” and processed. These consumers are already able to find more interesting and adventurous flavors in categories ranging from carbonated water, to chewing gum, potato chips and hamburgers. “People are looking for more bold and unique flavor experiences,” Longstreth notes.
As a result, the company’s changes to Diet Coke may not amount to as large a risk as some might suspect. Indeed, write the branding veterans, the carbonated soft drink category has been troubled for quite some time and could benefit from bold moves. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw more new flavors in the next year,” Wakeshima wrote.
Many of today’s leadership brands have an opportunity to “flex their equities and be less precious with them,” Longstreth notes. However, he cautions, those changes should pay respect to what people love about these brands.
In making the new Diet Coke available in multiple flavors and colors as well as both slim and standard 12-oz. cans, the Coca-Cola Co. clearly has made a sincere investment in the brand, Wakeshima wrote. In today’s era of online grocery shopping via mobile device, these efforts could yield other dividends as well.
“The fact that they chose a simple, color-banded package design signals that the Coca-Cola Co. is also considering how Diet Coke could appear in small-format, digital presentations like on a mobile device,” he concluded. “This is something they didn’t even think about when the brand was first launched in 1982.”