So Coca-Cola is set to remove Coke Zero from Australian shops with the launch of Coca-Cola No Sugar. This is the third sugar-free product the brand has launched, with Diet Coke launching in 1983 and then Coke Zero in 2006.
I helped Coca-Cola reposition Coke Zero shortly after it launched. When Coca-Cola launched Coke Zero they targeted young guys, assuming that girls looking for a no sugar option would choose Diet Coke. This isn’t in fact what happened. 25+ female drinkers stuck to Diet Coke since it was a taste they had acquired and now preferred. Young female drinkers chose Coke Zero because it tasted most like Coca-Cola, the taste they were used to and the taste they preferred.
So we went for a more gender neutral positioning: “Real (Coca-Cola) Taste. Zero Sugar.” This was the promise – you get the great taste of Coca-Cola, just without the sugar. But it seems Coca-Cola have now come up with something even better, declaring that Coca-Cola No Sugar is “the best-tasting no sugar cola yet”.
Oh, and here I am thinking that, that was Coke Zero. “Coca-Cola Zero is already a great tasting drink, but we think with this new recipe,” the press release says, “we’ve been able to get even closer to the taste of Coca-Cola Classic/Original Taste.”
OK, well lets have a look at the recipes of Coke Zero and Coca-Cola No Sugar (the list of ingredients anyway). Both contain caffeine, phenylalanine, and the exact same sweeteners (950 and 951). In fact both contain exactly the same ingredients except that Coke Zero has 28mg Sodium, whereas Coca-Cola No Sugar only has 10.5mg Sodium. I find this curious, since Coca-Cola (the original taste) has 25mg Sodium, more in line with Coke Zero. But then Coca-Cola No Sugar also has a thing called “Flavour”, which Coke Zero doesn’t have. This must be the “magic” ingredient that makes Coca-Cola No Sugar taste more like Coca-Cola that Coke Zero does.
Or is it all just brand and marketing hype? Same stuff with pretty much the same ingredients, just a different spin and use of the words NO SUGAR in a world that is turning away from sugar. Because just saying Coke Zero apparently isn’t enough, since too many drinkers didn’t know (apparently) that Coke Zero has NO SUGAR in it. So Coca-Cola needed to really spell it out for a world that has the attention span of a gnat.
On top of this Coca-Cola have changed their global tagline from “Open happiness” to “Taste the feeling”, with a very Instagram-looking type of photographic style and art direction. Personally I way prefer “Open happiness” – or “Happiness in a bottle” as an overall brand positioning and promise. “You can’t beat the feeling” was their global tagline in the 80s/90s, and so their new tagline takes me back to a time when Coca-Cola pretty much lost its way as a brand.
As for the people who now prefer the taste of Coke Zero … tough shit. This is business after all, and if there’s one thing Coca-Cola know how do really well it’s keeping and growing their “share of mouth”.