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Special Columns
Arindam Chaudhuri, Editor-in-Chief, 4Ps B&M Chief Consulting Editor's Desk
Rajita Chaudhuri
K.K.Srivastava Guest Column
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BRAND 'COCA COLA' – too much of a good thing?
Coca Cola is steadily being converted to a corporate brand, but health concerns due to the 'cola' association still haunt the company
Its legendary cola rivalry with PepsiCo is now over two decades old in India, but Coca Cola India as a company seems to have realised that there are many more brand battles to be fought and won in India’s Rs.190 billion soft-drink market. You would have had a feeler of this on the idiot box of late. Coke’s supposedly unpretentious brand – Limca – roped in Kareena Kapoor as brand ambassador and unleashed for the first time (ever since its acquisition from Parle Group) an exclusive commercial for a big-ticket event like IPL. Moreover, Coca Cola is not only eying the soft-drink market. The group recently announced that they will pump nearly $3 billion into India over the next eight years.

Yes, it’s Coca Cola’s Limca vs PepsiCo’s Mirinda – the latest battle to watch out for. Earlier, Coke resorted to the oomph of Bollywood divas like Riya Sen, but it never had an exclusive star brand ambassador. To increase it’s market share from 12%, the group has changed it’s punchline to appeal to the achievement-oriented youth. Anupama Ahluwalia, Vice President - Marketing, Coca-Cola India & South West Asia, affirms, “Limca stands for great thirst-quenching and rejuvenation. Our new campaign for 2012, ‘Pyaas Badhao’, takes it to the next level - first increase your thirst and then quench it with Limca!”

Atul Singh, who heads India and the southwest part of Asia for Coca Cola, took over the reins around seven years ago and under his leadership, the Indian arm’s share in Coca Cola’s global sales has grown from 1% to around 2.5%. With the latest FDI announcement, the agenda is to catapult India to the league of Coca Cola’s top five markets globally from its current rank at 10. He has announced that in the coming years, Coke would be paying more attention to other brands and creating new brands. The future lies in healthy beverages and juices, and Coca Cola India is certainly upping the ante on that front.

However, the company’s basic strategy to attract ‘consumer recall’ for its flagship brand Coca Cola remains intact. In fact, the company seems to be giving brand Coca Cola a much more larger than life sheen beyond soft drinks in India through corporate identity branding. This is visible with their ‘Umeedon waali dhoop...” campaign. With McCann Erickson, Coca Cola has intelligently used children in the advertisement and talked about the positive impact that Coca Cola, the company, has on the world at large. As is known, Coca Cola roped in R. Balki’s Lowe Lintas and V. Sunil’s Weiden + Kennedy. With Lowe Lintas, the company came out with its latest ‘Cricket ki Khushi’ campaign with ‘Happiness Ambassador’ Sachin Tendulkar at the onset of this summer. The campaign commemorated the exhilarating spirit of the game that binds people together irrespective of their locales or their circumstances. The company has also launched a ‘Support my school’ initiative with Sachin Tendulkar and a few campaign partners (NDTV, UN-Habitat, Charities Aid Foundation, Tata Teleservices, Pearson Foundation & Sulabh International), which provides amenities to schools in backward regions from basic sanitation to infrastructure facilities like computer labs and libraries.

As a part of their Integrated Marketing Communication strategy, the group sustained it’s marketing platform of Coke Studio like last year. The aim is to beckon generation next through the platform of music and create a strong brand association with Coca Cola. In this second season, the programme involves over 200 artistes collaborating to create new musical content and is also being featured on Doordarshan for better reach. Senior officials at Coca Cola India affirm that it’s a productive effort targeted towards the long term growth of their resilient business. “The brand continues to strengthen its position as an Iconic Brand for the Indian consumer through consistent positioning,” Wasim Basir, Director, Integrated Marketing Communication, Coca-Cola India.

By providing brand Coca-Cola with a more larger than life corporate image that associates with themes like ‘happiness’ and ‘planet’, the company is clearly attempting to give the 126-year old brand a new lease of life. To their credit, this ongoing repositioning is in line with the needs of the contemporary world. On the flip side, the association with obesity, especially childhood obesity, continues to haunt the brand globally. In US, several states have attempted to impose an anti-obesity soda tax on beverage companies. Recently in March, lawmakers in Hawaii shot down one such proposal that would have raised an additional tax of 17 cents per bottle. Coca Cola, Pepsi and the American Beverage Association have spent around $70 million in lobbying and advertising on this issue (as per Center for Science in the Public Interest) since 2009. Needless to add, this could be a stumbling block in India as well in the coming time. In a recent interview to a national daily, CEO Muhtar Kent asserted that 800 of the 3500 products that the company markets globally have no calories and another 15% have less calories. However, perception of Brand Coca Cola stays stingily around the conventional cola drink that it’s marketed for years. And that legacy burden is, as we say, too much of a good thing, and must be addressed well in time.

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