Marketing Campaign Case Studies

Friday, April 18, 2008


Royal Crown Company, which introduced Diet Rite in 1958, prided itself on being a pioneer of the soft-drink industry. Not only was Diet Rite the world’s first diet carbonated soft drink (CSD), but it was also later the first CSD made with Splenda brand sweetener, a low-calorie sugar substitute extracted from sucrose. Diet Rite was purchased by Cadbury Schweppes Americas Beverages in 2000. Later that year a reformulated Diet Rite was released that had no carbohydrates, calories, caffeine, sugar, or sodium. The Coca-Cola Company’s Diet Coke and PepsiCo, Inc.’s Diet Pepsi were Diet Rite’s fiercest competitors, but neither offered a zero-calorie CSD made with Splenda, which was deemed a healthier sugar substitute than the commonly used sweetener aspartame. Hoping to increase its market share by 10 percent, Cadbury released its Diet Rite ‘‘Go For Zero’’ campaign. The $8 million campaign was created by the advertising agency Brand Buzz and the public-relations firm Cohn & Wolfe. The first television commercial aired in August 2004. Other media included radio advertisements and a cross-promotion with the Zero Gravity Corporation (or ZERO-G), the world’s first provider of flights that allowed the public to experience weightlessness. According to a Brand Buzz spokesperson the campaign was intended to brand Diet Rite on what the agency called a ‘‘zero messaging platform’’ by touting the drink’s ‘‘zero carbs, zero calories, zero caffeine, zero sugar, and zero sodium’’ recipe. The campaign’s first 30-second spot featured computer-generated zeros bubbling from each of Diet Rite’s seven flavors.
Diet Rite’s market share within diet CSDs increased by 46 percent during the campaign, and its entire CSD market share grew 59 percent. The campaign also garnered a Bronze EFFIE Award in the Beverages/ Carbonated category in 2005. Nonalcoholic-beverageindustry critics praised the campaign for its ability to gain market share for the Diet Rite brand within an industry dominated by such titans as Coke and Pepsi, who spent $25 million to $50 million advertising their diet CSDs in 2004.

The soft-drink industry changed forever after Royal Crown Company introduced the world’s first diet CSD, Diet Rite, in 1958. Royal Crown had originally created Diet Rite as a specialty drink, but after it excelled in a small test market, the company released Diet Rite nationwide under the tagline ‘‘Feel All Right.’’ In 1962 it was the fourth-highest-selling cola in America. The sales of Royal Crown brands, such as RC Cola and Diet Rite, receded over the following decades until Cadbury Schweppes, the owner of CSD brands Seven Up and Dr Pepper, purchased Royal Crown in 2000. Although Diet Rite was the first calorie-free soft drink to use Splenda, Cadbury ran little Diet Rite advertising prior to ‘‘Go For Zero.’’ Diet Rite television commercials had not aired since 1996. Critics such as Stephanie Thompson of Advertising Age referred to Diet Rite as an ‘‘out-of-vogue’’ soft drink.
Diet Rite’s outlook improved in 2003 after the main website for the Atkins diet, a low-carbohydrate, highprotein weight-loss program, suggested Diet Rite over other diet CSDs. Not only did the Atkins website suggest drinking Diet Rite, but it also recommended using Diet Rite in its chicken marinade recipes. According to Beverage Digest editor John Sicher, the Atkins endorsement helped Diet Rite’s sales jump 21 percent while the entire soft drink industry only grew 0.6 percent. The Atkins website recommended food products that used the sugar substitute Splenda, which was deemed healthier than aspartame, a chemical that some scientists believed incited brain cancer. John Stanton, professor of food marketing at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, told Advertising Age that the success of the Atkins diet had made previously unpopular brands such as Diet Rite popular again and had opened a window of opportunity for all other products containing Splenda. As people on the Atkins diet turned to Diet Rite in 2003, Cadbury began formulating a campaign that would expand its burgeoning base of health-conscious consumers.

‘‘Go For Zero’’ targeted what Brand Buzz dubbed ‘‘Label-Reading Wellness Women’’ between the ages of 35 and 49. Brand Buzz understood this target as a healthand diet-conscious population of females who balanced work, family, and other responsibilities. Aware that many women read the labels on their diet soft drinks, Brand Buzz designed the campaign to tout Diet Rite as the only Splenda CSD without calories. Coca-Cola produced a Splenda soft drink titled C2, and Pepsi produced the Splenda drink Pepsi Edge, but both combined Splenda with sugar, which resulted in an estimated 70 calories per 12-ounce can. Diet Rite’s ‘‘zero messaging platform’’ hoped to attract all women pursuing a healthier diet, whether it was ‘‘zero-sugar’’ for Diabetes, ‘‘zero-sodium’’ for high blood pressure, or ‘‘zero-calories’’ for weight loss. ‘‘We know that now more than ever people are looking for products that meet their needs for a healthconscious lifestyle,’’ Tony Jacobs, vice president of marketing for Diet Rite at the company’s Cadbury Schweppes Americas Beverage unit, was quoted in the Wall Street Journal. According to Jacobs, at the beginning of 2004 women made up 40 to 60 percent of Diet Rite’s consumer base. Alongside the campaign’s television spots, radio advertisements, and cross-promotion with ZERO-G, ‘‘Go For Zero’’ targeted ‘‘Label-Reading Wellness Women’’ by sponsoring Oprah Winfrey’s Live Your Best Life Tour, a three-city event during which Winfrey hosted seminars about personal growth. Diet Rite also sponsored the American Diabetes Association and Speaking of Women’s Health, an organization encouraging women to eat healthier and exercise more.

C2, made by Coca-Cola, and Pepsi Edge were Diet Rite’s largest competitors in mid-2004. Both combined Splenda with high-fructose corn syrup to create diet CSDs that tasted much like their non-diet counterparts, but with half the calories. In 2004 Coca-Cola launched a $50 million-plus marketing campaign to announce C2 with commercials featuring the Rolling Stones song ‘‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’’ and the Queen song ‘‘I Want to Break Free.’’ Created by Berlin Cameron/Red Cell, an ad agency based in New York, the spots featured the tagline ‘‘Half the carbs. Half the cals. All the great taste.’’ More than 12 million samples of C2 were distributed nationwide.
The $25 million Pepsi Edge campaign was also released in 2004, under the tagline ‘‘With full flavor and 50 percent less sugar and carbs, why not?’’ The campaign was created by advertising agency BBDO New York. Commercials featured normal men completing tasks while sportscasters Stuart Scott of ESPN’s show SportsCenter and Rich Eisen of the NFL Network commented on them. Humorous print ads congratulated people on such prosaic accomplishments as wearing socks. The print’s copy stated, ‘‘This moment deserves a Pepsi Edge.’’
Pepsi and Coca-Cola walked a fine line with their advertising messages. They could not advertise Pepsi Edge or C2 as aspartame-free CSDs without degrading their aspartame-laden brands, such as Diet Pepsi and Diet Coke. The similar taglines for Pepsi and Coca-Cola drew criticism from analysts. ‘‘These companies are selling the same product. What are they doing to differentiate themselves?’’ Tom Pirko, president of BevMark, a beverage-industry consulting firm, said to Advertising Age. ‘‘They’re virtually indistinguishable.’’

The underlying message behind Diet Rite’s $8 million ‘‘Go For Zero’’ campaign was that Diet Rite tasted just as good as CSDs made with high-fructose corn syrup, but that only Diet Rite contained ‘‘zero carbs, zero calories, zero caffeine, zero sugar, and zero sodium.’’ Initially the campaign aired one television spot, which featured effervescent zeros rising from Diet Rite’s seven flavors: cola, white grape, tangerine, red raspberry, golden peach, black cherry, and kiwi strawberry. The commercial’s computeranimated zeros were created by Digital Domain, a special-effects company that had worked on such movies as Apollo 13 and Titanic. Hoping to target ‘‘Label-Reading Wellness Women,’’ Cadbury spent $2.7 million to air the commercial across cable networks such as TLC, Lifetime, HGTV, and the Food Network. These channels were selected based on their programming, which Brand Buzz believed resonated with the target’s dietary and fitness interests. To reach a wider audience an additional $1.8 million was spent to release the commercial across network stations.
Cadbury expanded Diet Rite’s ‘‘zero messaging platform’’ by partnering with ZERO-G, the world’s first provider of zero-gravity flights for the public. In September 2004 Diet Rite and ZERO-G hosted ‘‘Go For Zero’’ promotions in Newark, Los Angeles, Dallas, Detroit, Atlanta, and Fort Lauderdale, where select consumers could experience weightlessness inside a modified Boeing 727-200. By descending at a speed that counteracted Earth’s gravitational pull, the plane, called G-Force One, created a zero-gravity environment within its fuselage. ZERO-G typically charged $3,000 per flight, but consumers chosen for the promotion flew for free. ZERO-G’s weightlessness technique was the same used by National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to prepare future astronauts for the weightlessness of space travel.
Cadbury hired the entertainment-marketing company EMCI to set up the ZERO-G promotion. ‘‘We believe this event will capture the imagination of America and break through all of the low carb clutter with a clear and powerful statement for Diet Rite,’’ Jay Coleman, CEO of EMCI, told the PR Newswire. Spokespeople for Cadbury pushed the Diet Rite brand’s ‘‘zero messaging platform’’ throughout the September event. Randy Gier, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of Cadbury Schweppes Americas Beverages, explained to the PR Newswire, ‘‘This new partnership with ZERO-G is a way for us to bring to the excitement of zero to life and to consumers around the country.’’ Some critics frowned on ZERO-G’s decision to endorse Diet Rite. Gary Ruskin, the head of Commercial Alert, a nonprofit watchdog group against intrusive advertisement, remarked in the New York Times about the partnership, ‘‘It’s the creep of advertising into every nook and cranny of our lives and culture and even space.’’

Many diet soft drinks, including Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi, contained a sugar-substitute called aspartame, a sweetener made from the combination of two building blocks of protein. Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved aspartame in 1981, public-interest groups such as the Community Nutrition Institute and the Center for Science in the Public Interest petitioned the FDA for another ruling. John Olney of Washington University in Saint Louis fanned the controversy when he released a medical study in 1996 that showed that brain cancer rates had jumped 10 percent in the United States since aspartame’s approved by the FDA. In an earlier study laboratory rats that were fed aspartame also formed a significantly higher number of brain tumors. Advocates for aspartame claimed that the sugar-substitute had been proven safe in more than 200 laboratory tests and that aspartame was safe because it was composed of chemicals commonly found in meat, fish, cheese, eggs, and milk.

In 2005 ‘‘Go For Zero’’ earned Cadbury and Buzz Brand a Bronze EFFIE Award in the Carbonated Beverages category. During the campaign Diet Rite’s market share catapulted 46 percent, far surpassing the original goal of a 10 percent increase. Amongst all CSDs, diet and nondiet, Diet Rite’s market share increased 59 percent. Cadbury executives had also hoped ‘‘Go For Zero’’ would increase Diet Rite’s baseline sales volume by 5 percent during the campaign’s advertising period; it exceeded these expectations by increasing 11.4 percent even though the CSD industry was growing at a much slower rate.
Cadbury sales suggested that the success of ‘‘Go For Zero’’ did not just result from the endorsement from the Atkins diet. During the month of August, when the sole ‘‘Go For Zero’’ television spot aired, Diet Rite sold 10 percent more cases than the month before or the October afterward. Analysts attributed the success to Diet Rite’s clear ‘‘zero messaging platform,’’ while larger competitors such as C2 and Pepsi Edge fumbled with their advertising messages. Also, it became apparent that dieters wanted CSDs without any calories instead of CSDs with just half of the calories.

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