If you’re a follower of marketing, branding, the food industry or consumer products in general, you probably saw the news last month that Coca-Cola is launching Fairlife – a “premiumized” (their word, not mine) milk product with more protein and less sugar than “normal” milk.
Frankly, I’m a little bit conflicted.
On the one hand, it’s no secret that carbonated beverages are on the decline and the company doesn’t hide the fact that its brands include non-carbonated products like FUZE, Dasani, POWERADE, Monster and glaceau. This includes, by my count, six different water and three different tea brands. So I guess rather than launching a seventh water brand (#H2OhEnoughAlready?), if you’re going to capitalize on consumer desire for all things protein and all things naturally sourced, why not take a crack at revitalizing what is arguably the world’s first protein drink? And from a health and nutrition standpoint (as well as in support of family farms), I’m kind of happy to see a company put some marketing juice behind what’s clearly a better choice than a lot of today’s protein and energy drinks.
But that said it’s hard not to throw some criticism Coke’s way:
- The name – Fairlife. I have to wonder how this tested in the focus groups (and let’s hope they weren’t the same focus groups that tested New Coke). Apparently Coke doesn’t want us to reach too high – Greatlife might be too much of a stretch, so let’s be satisfied with Fairlife. The trademark for “Notbadlife” must have been taken.
- The imagery supporting the campaign. If there’s anything that the good folks at Coca-Cola should have learned from the recent debacle that is the replacement for the famous Got Milk campaign is that most consumers don’t want to see the products they consume either applied to or flying off their bodies (thanks PadillaCRT food team colleague Jason Stemm for pointing this out). As a 40-something male, I’m not the target market, but even I can see that naked women dripping with “milk clothing” carries some pretty overt and sexist messages. Apparently I’m not alone.
- Product and corporate brand conflict. It’s clear that Fairlife is striving for an authentic, genuine, natural brand aimed at healthy living. Everything from the name to the health messages to the sourcing of milk from family farms screams “we’re not a corporate behemoth.” However, that’s in conflict with Coca-Cola the corporation, which wants to demonstrate to its investors that it has a diverse product line that will keep the profits flowing. In fact, at an industry conference, a senior executive from Coke said that the company expects Fairlife to “rain money.” This is arguably one of the company’s biggest product launches in recent years and one dripping with news value. The irony of the world’s leading soft drink company trying to bring back milk’s popularity alone merits international news. How could the company not know that a statement like this completely flies in the face of its effort to create an authentic, female-oriented, transparent, natural brand? In its haste to tell investors how much money it’s going to make off of Fairlife, it may have inadvertently scuttled the very brand values that Fairlife is trying to communicate.
I guess in the end, I hope Fairlife finds enough success to stay on the shelf – if nothing else because it’s innovative and appears to fill a marketplace need. However, I think Coke has to go back to the drawing board when it comes to brand proposition and pricing if it wants Fairlife to take its place alongside the company’s other leading product brands.