Coke Polar Bear Ads: A Bit of Sense In An Otherwise Chaotic Scene.

David Kiley

As Coca-Cola literally lurches from one product and marketing strategy to another hoping to makes sense of its brand portfolio, at least it has the good sense not to ditch what has become a nice holiday icon--the Coke Polar Bear.

Ad Age notes that the latest ad, set to Beach Boys music, was the IAG #1 Best Liked Ad of the month. You can view it here.

My colleague Dean Foust just wrote a good piece summing up Coke's problems off last week's New Yoork investors meeting where it laid out some of its new plans. Dean's appropriate lead: "Quick, what's Coca-Cola's current ad slogan? Hmm, had to think for a minute, didn't you? "Coke is it?" Sorry, that was the jingle used back in the 1980s and early 1990s. "Always?" Apparently not. That was retired in 1999."

One new ad in a series that will be sloganed " Welcome To The Coke Side of Life," which replaces "Real" goes like this: A male teen sitting on a bench next to an attractive girl begins mimicking the sound of a cell-phone ring. While she gives him an odd stare, he pulls a bottle of Coke out of his backpack, pretends to answer it, then hands it to the girl saying, "This is for you." She smiles approvingly at the witty move.

Coke hasn't had a coherent ad strategy, in my opinion, since Sergio Zyman left the company. And even some of Sergio's moves were odd. I recall, for example, when the agency I worked for at the time, Lowe & Partners, did a greeat breakthrough spot: "The construction worker." This was the guy who took his shirt off at 11:30 every day while ogling female secretaries looked on. The theme was "This is Refreshment." Sergio scotched the slogan after about ten months to go back to "Just for the Taste of it," because the former slogan tested better for recall than the new one. Duh. It takes longer than ten months for a new slogan and strategy to bake in.

Looking at Coke in the last year---as we have seen such pointless line extensions as Coke Zero, Coke Lime, Coke Vanilla. And now we have Coca-Cola Blak (think carbonated coffee), Vault, a citrus-flavored energy drink, Diet Black Cherry Vanilla Coke and Black Cherry Vanilla Coke and Tab Energy. They should call at least one of the products "Tedious," because that's what this all is. Coke has blown thse categories by letting Pepsi get into bed with Starbucks for RTD coffee and by not buying Red Bull when the asking price was a lot less than it would be today. This onslaught of product rollouts from Coke is not a strategy so much as it is a marketing version of a full-body heave. I've seen more thoughtful consideration in a speed dating session.

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