June 11, 2013

SmashBrand-Cola, Anyone

SmashBrand-Cola, Anyone

Coca Cola (or as we like to call it, Zeus Almighty of all corporate brands, Coca Cola be praised) has come up with a labeling strategy for United Kingdom customers where every bottle of Coke can be branded with the name of the purchaser. For the sake of ease and simplicity, Coca Cola has helpfully created labels with the 150 most popular names in Great Britain. Unfortunately, according to our close friend from the UK, 149 of those names are Martin.

OK, maybe there are also a few “Colins.” Anyway, by allowing customers to personalize their products, Coca Cola gives its customer base an emotional bond with its brand, insofar as anyone can cultivate a deep love for a faceless corporate entity.

This leads us to wonder: in what other ways can a brand establish a profound connection with its consumer base? Is it feasible to design labels that are totally personalized, with names and photographs and birthstone colors and individual theme songs radiating from tiny speakers?

It’s difficult for the smaller company to personalize its labeling entirely. Heck, Coca Cola didn’t even really do it; it just selected a series of popular names that the customer can choose from a vending machine. Clearly, reconfiguring a product label for every possible name isn’t economically reasonable for most companies, but there are different tactics to be explored.

Individual Sense of Style

Just because your name isn’t on a product doesn’t mean you can’t feel a sense of ownership. Many products market their wares to different demographics using wildly varying advertising schemes, of course, but not every company uses labels to create distinct characters.

Have you noticed that some lines of hair styling products use package labeling to differentiate the types of individual who might want/need the different features? For example, certain styling gels that provide extreme, industrial epoxy-type hold feature a pierced, tattooed and punk aesthetic on the label, while the softer hold styling gels might have a picture of Laura Ingalls Wilder or someone equally wholesome and un-rebellious. These bottles might be the same brand, but the extremes of the labels could succeed in causing the customer to feel as though a certain line within the brand speaks directly to him/her.

Location, Location, Location

Another way to create a sense of ownership while only producing a finite number of different labels is to appeal to different regions. People get seriously serious about their hometowns; if you stand someone from Boston next to someone from New York, the animosity radiating from the two can actually cause most objects put between them to explode into flames.

Anyway, people have a profound sense of pride in their cities and states. Creating special labels for states, cities and even neighborhoods might create a frenzy of community spirit and love for your product. How many sports drinks can be called the official sports drink of Pinedale, Wyoming?

Gotta Have a Gimmick (Shout out to All Musical Theater Geeks)

Oh, we know; gimmicks leave a bad taste in the customer’s mouth. But really – everything you do to separate yourself from the crowd that isn’t legitimately useful is a gimmick of sorts. If you’ve ever gotten a “faux-hawk,” you have slapped a gimmick on your head, my friend.

So, let’s set aside the inherent shiftiness of the gimmick, and embrace the many ways a gimmick can turn into a successful ploy (another unfortunate term).

To the exceedingly cynical, even labeling strategies that offer altruistic services are still gimmicky. So don’t worry too much about being thought of as a hardened marketing Svengali.

So, what have we learned today? We learned that Coca Cola is slowly creating a marketing campaign designed to appeal to you, specifically (yes, YOU, Mr. Irving Feingold of Flushing, NY). We learned that there is more than one way to create a personal bond between a product and consumer. Lastly, we learned that nearly everything that everyone does — including having and updating social media pages, tweeting, buying a styling gel, getting a haircut and waking up in the morning – is a form of personal gimmickry, but that it’s not necessarily a bad or narcissistic or shallow thing … unless you’ve posted a YouTube video of yourself doing a tutorial on how you comb your hair.


by Kevin Smith
SmashBrand helps brands create, optimize, and launch successful products, services, and customer experiences. Our data-driven process is the key to accelerating sales and minimizing risks.

We use a strategic combination of market research, design, and consumer testing to solve complex brand problems more effectively, create differentiation, and forge more meaningful connections with customers.

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