Starting this week, we are going to try a new feature every Wednesday on the thinkfuture blog called Innovative Or Not. It’s kind of like Hot Or Not, or Tinder for innovation – since everything seems to be binary nowadays, we may as well give it a try.
What we’ll do is take something that some people think is innovative, and dissect it to see if it really, truly is. Let’s see what we will be swiping left or right on this week:
Inventive Soda Labels
You’ve probably noticed if you drink soda, or if you’ve recently wandered around the soda aisle of a grocery store, that typical bottles and cans of soda have changed. Well, they haven’t really changed on the inside – on the inside, you’ll still get the same water, high fructose corn syrup and phosphorus which gives you that distinctive Coke flavor (remember New Coke? Whatever happened to that?) that’s been around for a long, long time. No, the inside is the same – the only thing that’s changed is the label.
Coke cans and bottles now feature names and roles. For example, you’ll see things like Sis, Bro, Better Half, Sidekick and Favorite as well as a ton of names – seems to me covering a lot of the more millennial sounding names – like Jayden, Ethan, Isabella, Madison, Chloe, Charisma etc. You can even go to the Share a Coke website and get your own name printed on a bottle and have it shipped (apparently its $5 a bottle – I haven’t tested it to see if they filter out profanity or not). Sprite is now starting to print lyrics from popular hip-hop songs on their cans. continuing that brands tradition of connection with hip hop artists. All this sounds like a great marketing campaign – using technology to allow people to personalize their drink, but is it innovative?
If you think about, all of these brands are in a bit of a bind: they want to innovate, but as New Coke has shown, its almost impossible to mess with a formula people are used to. At the same time, sales of these types of water/high fructose corn syrup/artificial flavor drinks are in decline, as more and more people prefer a healthier drink, especially water.
The brands are in decline, so they innovate around the edges, by changing packaging. I’d say, interesting, but not innovative. How can Coke become truly innovative?
Restart New Coke as a purely customized drink. Set up a website and a mobile app where you can customize all aspects of the drink, from the sweetness content (give the customer a choice of sweeteners, or even a combination) and a choice of flavors (and combinations) and a choice of carbonated or still, and then let them further not only order it but also resell their combination for them. They can call it whatever they like, powered by New Coke. This not only brings in the power of crowdification (where you push the product development to the crowd) but platformization (Coke is not longer the end result, but a platform for the crowd to deliver their drink of choice).
Now that would be innovation. Custom labels, not so much.