Diet Coke is now the No. 2 soda brand, and it’s starting to market like it. In a historic shift, the brand inched past Pepsi in 2010, grabbing a 9.9% share of the carbonated soft-drink category, compared to Pepsi’s 9.5% share. That caused Coca-Cola’s marketing department to reevaluate how and when it markets the brand. The result is a new fall push for Diet Coke, which has traditionally spent the bulk of its budget during the first quarter. The first quarter includes “tentpole” events such as the Academy Awards and the brand’s Heart Truth campaign, which ties in with New York Fashion Week, said Katie Bayne, president-general manager of sparkling beverages.
“[We asked,] how do we balance spending and messaging throughout the year to have the kind of dialogue that the No. 2 beverage brand should have? Coke has that connection and Diet Coke should too,” Ms. Bayne said. “It’s the first time we’ll have a national pillar in this time of year. … There’s a real, new level of commitment to the brand on behalf of our entire system.”
The fall campaign continues with the “Stay Extraordinary” theme that was introduced in early 2010. It includes three 15-second spots, a limited-edition can design, point-of-sale booklets that feature fashion and beauty tips, as well as coupons, a partnership with StyleCaster, and events coinciding with New York Fashion Week.
Ms. Bayne declined to comment on specifics of the brand’s spending, but indications are that it will be higher this year, given the addition of marketing activities during the third quarter. Diet Coke spent $36 million on measured media in 2010, according to Kantar. That’s down from $59 million in 2006, though in line with spending during the last three years. The Coke trademark as a whole spent $267 million.
“There were years in the not-so-distant past where we didn’t do too much Diet Coke work in a year,” Ms. Bayne said. “We’re reinventing and refreshing the brand for a new generation of Diet Coke drinkers.”
That new generation of drinkers, defined as 20-to-29-year olds, is leading the brand to a new voice, one that has “a little bit of teeth,” Ms. Bayne said. Last year, the messaging was a bit more general; now it’s sharper. “We’ve learned the brand needs to have wit, self-deprecation and optimism. It’s never snarky but a little bit witty,” she said.
“Another word for ambition is thirst,” reads copy in one spot, for example. “The other iced non-fat-to-go,” reads an outdoor execution next to a Starbucks.
The commercials, handled by Wieden & Kennedy, will begin airing this weekend and mark the first time the brand has embraced a 15-second length. Ms. Bayne said the length allowed the brand to tell “simple stories,” such as one about a couple meeting at a party or about a man commuting. The ads are also translatable to digital formats and could be used to bookend an ad pod.
All of the ads out this fall will feature the Tucker Duckworth-designed can, which William White, group brand director for Diet Coke, says is a “reflection of the smart, self-assured and confident men and women who drink Diet Coke. … We believe that this bold new look will catch the attention of those consumers everywhere.”
The limited-edition design is an oversized logo, with the “D” and “k” emphasized. David Turner, a partner at Turner Duckworth, said that the brief and clear objective of “Stay Extraordinary” lent itself to “really clear and bold work,” though he joked about the age-old desire of marketers to “make the logo bigger.” Highlighting a portion of the logo, similar to a monogram, indicates the confidence of the brand, he said.
“There’s a need to build dimension to a brand story, looking at it different ways through different lenses,” Mr. Turner said. “[Limited-edition designs] show consumers another aspect of the brand. It’s important, particularly these days, for brands to keep doing that. Although they need to be coherent, they also need to feel alive.”
Ms. Bayne said the design was tested in Philadelphia in partnership with Target last August and September. That market saw volume growth outpace the rest of the country during the test. “We do have some learning behind this,” Ms. Bayne said. “It wasn’t an accidental design or something that we just happened on.”