A lot of buzz around Coke’s attempt to win over Millennials with a rebranding of Diet Coke, but this is one of those times when common sense should triumph over all the data leading to the marketing decision that this will work.
Consumers are basically simple creatures with straightforward needs and easily observed behaviors. Marketers are complicated critters with strange customs and mysterious beliefs. Marketers are taught not to think simply. In fact, the whole practice of marketing is based on the conviction that there are forces at work in the minds of consumers that only trained specialists are qualified to interpret. Thinking simply has been beaten out of marketers. The “new” Diet Coke is the perfect example.
Hey! Millennials aren’t using our product.
Coke marketers, it seems, would rather pander fruitlessly to young people than make real money selling things to old people. Coke is targeting Millennials even though they will not buy their products. By doing so they are just as ignoring people who are old — even though they have lots of money and are still prime targets for their products.
According to Nielsen, people over 50 are “the most valuable generation in the history of marketing.” Yet only 5% of advertising is directed at them. The over-60 market’s spending power will hit $15 trillion by the end of the decade, per AT Kearney, yet marketers are missing the mark with this demographic, with 57% of over-55s saying advertising is not meaningful to them, per Havas Group research
Marketers think that people over 50 are decrepit old farts. Marketers cannot understand that Barack Obama, Jerry Seinfeld, Condoleezza Rice, Bruce Springsteen, Meryl Streep and tens of millions of others are all over 50. They are healthy, wealthy, and wise. And, in many ways, hipper and more youthful than the marketers.
Diet sodas sold by Coca-Cola and PepsiCo posted steep volume declines in 2016, dragging down demand for the total carbonated soft drink category as consumers buy more bottled waters and other healthier beverages.
Total volume of carbonated soft drinks dipped 0.8% in 2016, a drop that was less severe than 2015’s 1.2% tumble and 2014’s 0.9% decline, according to a new report from industry tracker Beverage Digest. The steepest volume declines were for Diet Pepsi (down 9.2%) and Diet Coke (falling 4.3%), with both losing market share last year.
Coke’s largest audience is 35 to 44 yet Coca-Cola spent two years on the Diet Coke relaunch and says it asked more than 10,000 people for their thoughts. But in general, consumer appetite for soda, both regular and diet, is shrinking. People are turning away from the artificial sweeteners used to flavor diet sodas — including the new Diet Coke flavors.
In a note published on Tuesday, the research group Cowen reported that diet soda sales fell 2% in the last three months of 2017. In that period, Diet Coke sales fell by 4% and Diet Pepsi () by 8%.
Other sodas have tried this strategy: Pepsi sought to appeal to younger drinkers last year with a disastrous ad featuring Kendall Jenner offering a soda to a police officer on a protest line. After a backlash, the company apologized and pulled the ad.
Companies like Coke might want to focus on sparkling water instead of new diet drinks, but God forbid.. they are under indexed with Millennials! These new products are doomed to fail, but that’s what happens when data gets in the way of common sense.