Beyond its generation
We all know about the failure of New Coke. Sergio Zyman was the head of U.S. Marketing for Coke and came up with an idea to change the Coke formula after his success in introducing Diet Coke. At the time, Coke was losing market share to Pepsi (Pepsi Challenge anyone?), therefore Zyman thought ‘let’s shake it up and give people something new to try’. With his ego at a bit of a high from Diet Coke, hubris got the best of him and his team decided to remove the old Coke from stores and just put the New Coke on shelves. We all know the story after that.
Zyman obviously was forced out of Coke after that bungle, however in 1993, the CEO of Coke decided to rehire Zyman as the head of marketing. The reason behind this seemingly insane decision was that Zyman was instrumental in the new design of Diet Coke and Coke cans along with the print ads, the CEO wanted that expertise to go after Generation X. Enter OK Soda.
Pretty nifty designs huh? Zyman and Coke wanted this soda to have nothing corporate and nothing flashy about it, to appeal to the rebellious Generation X. Coke ironically settled on the name because “OK” was the most recognized word globally, the #2 word? Coke.
Ok was released to select cities to generate buzz and to get a grassroots following. Like New Coke, Ok went flat.
The best targeted soda for this Generation was Mountain Dew (and still is at this point). It appealed to the extreme sports that were popular. Dew went the typical marketing channel route and made sure to be present in movies, popular restaurants, commercials during popular Gen X shows, etc. However Mtn. Dew never came off as a corporate soda, instead made the voice seem like it was coming right from the Generation, as if it was a young person leading the company.
Ok Soda completely went the other way thinking Gen X was this generation that fit into almost a 1950s and early 1960s counter culture movement. Zyman and his marketing team completely missed this target. However, the interesting thing is that Zyman totally hits on Generation Y or Millennials.
Look around you, you see a strong ‘hipster’ movement that has been getting ever so stronger over the past 5 years or so within the Millennial demographic. You see them shopping at antique stores and Goodwill for older generational material and clothing and you see them purchasing craft beers or even older generational beer like Pabst or Schlitz. Irony is the name of the game here and possibly nostalgia.
Now, what a better message than “The concept of OK-ness” and older can designs than Ok Soda for Millennial hipsters?
A lifestyle brand is what Ok was trying to do for Generation X. However, Millennials are ripe for a lifestyle brand such as Ok.
As a marketer however, I would advise Coke or others not to go the soda route since Millennials have been a generation avoiding soda however this example and experience should show them that Millennials can be hit. Coke saw this with the minimalist and humorous marketing of Glaceau for vitaminwater. However, a campaign like Ok could be the big thing that the beverage market or any market needs to hit this Generation.