Marketing Campaign Case Studies

Thursday, May 29, 2008


The marketing of diet products has been fraught with unique challenges because of their focus on physical appearance. Issues such as cultural ideals of beauty, physical health, gender roles, sexuality, and personal identity all hover implicitly or explicitly around the diet products phenomenon. Such concerns constituted only one minefield for the Coca-Cola Company in its advertising of Diet Coke. Another was the word ‘‘diet’’ itself, associated with self-denial. By the mid-1990s few foods or drinks other than diet sodas still carried the label. New products that had no negative ‘‘diet’’ connotations, such as iced teas and flavored waters, began to take market share. Yet Diet Coke’s brand equity was entrenched and powerful. Diet Coke, along with regular Coke, was a flagship product for Coca-Cola. Thus, Coca-Cola needed to maintain and strengthen a positive association based on Diet Coke’s already significant market share, as well as to maintain and increase that share.
In 1995 Coca-Cola dropped Diet Coke’s longtime tag line ‘‘Just for the taste of it’’ and shifted focus from taste to the less direct, lifestyle-oriented benefits of drinking Diet Coke. The company tapped its agency, Lowe & Partners/SMS of New York, for an ad campaign estimated to cost $40 million and that comprised three television spots demonstrating the positive effects of drinking Diet Coke. Using the tag line ‘‘You are what you drink,’’ the campaign opened in May 1997 and aired across the United States as well as in the United Kingdom, Canada, South Africa, and Australia. But the campaign’s message and humor were misunderstood, negative feedback was received, and Lowe and Coca-Cola quickly retrenched with new spots. These problems occurred, in large part, because of the difficulty of navigating through the treacherous sea of issues attached to the marketing of products tagged ‘‘diet.’’

Diet colas had been on the market over 10 years when Coca-Cola introduced Diet Coke in 1982. In the 1960s and 1970s the R. C. Cola Company pioneered the diet cola product category. PepsiCo introduced Diet Pepsi in the 1970s as well. Diet Coke’s launch was one of the most successful ever; it rapidly took the lead in market share for diet colas. Better taste was part of that success, as Diet Coke was the first diet cola to use the artificial sweetener NutraSweet. Hence, its first tag line ‘‘Just for the taste of it’’ promoted this benefit. The tag line was to be used on and off for a decade. By April 1988 Diet Coke held 10.1 percent of the $40 billion soft drink market based on supermarket sales, while Diet Pepsi held 6.9 percent.
The diet soft drink category hit its stride in the 1980s, expanding to 30 percent of the soft drink market. During that decade, diet colas drove the growth of the soft drink market, with consumption growing four to five times faster than for sugared sodas. This coincided with changes occurring among the baby boomers: they were aging, and they began exercising with a vengeance and watching calories. But they did not want to give up flavor. ‘‘Having it all,’’ it seemed, included undiminishing beauty and fitness as well as enjoyment of food and drink. The tag ‘‘Just for the taste of it’’ fit this mind-set. The implication that the products’ taste was good enough to be appreciated for its own sake neutralized the negative association of the word ‘‘diet.’’
The swift growth of the diet drink category stopped abruptly in the 1990s. Sales stayed relatively flat, while the growth of sugared sodas went up. In 1990 diet colas accounted for 21.3 percent of cola sales; this fell to 18.7 percent by 1996. According to USA Today, ‘‘both Coca-Cola and Pepsi saw their diet cola shares dip in retail stores two-tenths of a percentage point during the first half of 1997.’’
Several analysts identified key factors in the sluggish 1990s diet drink sales. John Sicher of Beverage Digest, speaking to USA Today, mentioned ‘‘the strong performances by bottled waters and the fact that many dieters now focus more on fat than calories.’’ In the same article, Michael Bellas of Beverage Marketing noted that ‘‘healthconscious consumers also have some misgivings about artificial sweeteners and caffeine.’’ Manny Goldman, a Paine Webber analyst speaking on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition in May 1997, commented that in the 1990s ‘‘people were becoming a little more selfindulgent, and they were concerned with satisfying their own basal desires, like things that taste good. They were willing to take on some calories to do that.’’ The baby boomers were actually mellowing out. The fight against the effects of time and gravity was ultimately unwinnable, so they chose to adapt. In the meantime, a new market, Generation X, was emerging, and their very different mind-set had to be addressed if Diet Coke was to maintain or improve market share.
As these forces played out, Senior Vice President of Marketing Sergio Zyman guided the company’s marketing style. Often described as brilliant, mercurial, and temperamental, he was dubbed by Cynthia Mitchell of The Atlanta Journal and Constitution ‘‘one of the architects of contemporary advertising.’’ Zyman became known as the person who launched Diet Coke, a huge and immediate success. This was followed in 1993 by the launch of New Coke, a huge and immediate failure. Acting as fall guy, Zyman left the company. Zyman’s approach to the marketing process was innovative and iconoclastic. For example, he increased Coke’s agency network to over two dozen shops. Moreover, he rapidly changed the marketing of Diet Coke, a strategy complicated by the fact that the market for diet soft drinks was itself rapidly changing. ‘‘It is unpredictability that has confused diet Coke’s message to consumers,’’ concluded Benzera and Parpis of BrandWeek.
A summary of the major advertising campaigns of the 1990s illustrates this unpredictability and the resulting fragmentation of brand image. In January 1990 a series of 30-second Diet Coke ads featured celebrities saying goodbye to sugared Pepsi Cola in favor of Diet Coke. The campaign’s theme was ‘‘The move is on.’’
This was a clear effort to grab soft drink market share:
Diet Coke was third overall with 8.9 percent, and Pepsi Cola was second with 18.3 percent. In January 1993 Diet Coke dropped the tag line ‘‘Just for the taste of it’’ and presented two new slogans: ‘‘One awesome calorie’’ and ‘‘Taste it all,’’ splitting the message into two different directions. A famous—or infamous—1994 spot created by Lowe & Partners reversed stereotypical gender roles by having office women ogle a shirtless construction worker drinking a Diet Coke on his break.
In 1995 Zyman returned to Coca-Cola and resumed his marketing of Diet Coke. He was ‘‘charged with shaking up the company’s marketing efforts,’’ noted Mitchell. It is questionable whether the company needed shaking up as much as it needed focus. One relatively conceptual 1995 spot that received critical approval featured a swimming elephant; it was created by the Minneapolis agency Fallon McElligot. Although visually engaging, the spot failed to mesh thematically with other Diet Coke commercials. Another spot produced the same year took a decidedly nonesoteric approach, featuring supermodel Stephanie Seymour dismissing a male admirer at a lunch counter. Diet Coke did grow in 1995 by 3.6 percent, compared with less than 2 percent for other diet soft drinks, but the growth was less than that of Coca-Cola’s other soft drinks. And given that the 1995 Diet Coke sales were flat in grocery stores, convenience stores, and gas stations, the miscellany of commercials was not working. Diet Coke’s share of the soft drink market dropped three-tenths of a percent from 1991 to 1995.
In 1996 Coke spent $72 million on commercials for Diet Coke. A 1996 campaign from Lowe featured variations on the ‘‘Just for the taste of it’’ jingle, such as ‘‘Just for the fun of it.’’ Diet Coke sponsored the Grammy Awards in 1996 and based an early 1997 promotion, ‘‘Diet Coke Untapped,’’ on that sponsorship. Then in January 1997 Diet Coke started an $18 million-plus campaign featuring music stars and prizes. The varied nature of the market required several types of ads. Yet the campaign needed an overarching plan allowing its impact to build over time. This would have required a disciplined strategic partnership between Coca-Cola and the primary agency, Lowe, with consistent direction provided by Coca-Cola as a foundation for the agency’s sustained creative activity.

Part of the difficulty of marketing Diet Coke resided in the diversity of its market, each segment of which had it own hot spots and red flags. Because by 1997 the taste issue was no longer news, Coca-Cola needed to focus on the concerns of Diet Coke drinkers and potential drinkers. The company teamed with Lowe early that year to create three new television spots with the tag line ‘‘You are what you drink.’’ The spots were based on the premise that the product helped people to look and feel their best.
Specifically, the effort was targeted at what Coca-Cola identified as three ‘‘attitudinal groups,’’ distilled from the diverse Diet Coke market. The ‘‘fit and confidents’’ were the younger and hipper group, 20-something men and women who did not need to diet but feared gaining weight. The ‘‘reluctant dieters’’ were men and women in their 30s who wanted to look good without sacrificing taste. The ‘‘aggressive dieters’’ were women 35 and over who worked hard to stay fit. Coca-Cola intended this effort not only to spur greater usage of Diet Coke among current Diet Coke drinkers but also to bring back some lapsed users and pull in some drinkers of regular Coke as well.

Although many diet sodas have tried to corner the market over the years, Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi have been locked in a head-to-head battle from the start, with Diet Coke gaining and holding the greater market share but Diet Pepsi always too close for comfort, particularly in terms of brand recognition and popularity among retail consumers. Together, Coca-Cola and Pepsi brands controlled 75 percent of the soft drink business by 1997, with their diet colas alone earning more than $10 billion in sales.
An incident occurring in the 1980s exemplifies the intensity of the Diet Coke-Diet Pepsi competition. Diet Coke at that point held 10.1 percent of the soft drink market and Diet Pepsi 6.9 percent. Pepsi produced a TV ad in which boxer Mike Tyson told reporters that Diet Pepsi ‘‘beat the taste of Diet Coke’’ in consumer taste tests. Tyson had just beaten Leon Spinks in a major match, which Pepsi had exclusively sponsored. Coke challenged the methodology behind the claim, demanded that Pepsi produce its research, and asked the networks to withdraw the ads (which they did not). Pepsi submitted documentation to the networks and challenged Coke’s own testing methods. Another component of the $4.4 million campaign was a full-page ad in the New York Times showing Tyson holding a can of Diet Pepsi. The ad copy read, ‘‘After a couple of pops in the mouth, it was over. Diet Pepsi had won the title. In head-to-head taste tests, Diet Pepsi decisively beat the taste of Diet Coke.’’
The market share percentages of the two competitors shifted in the mid-1990s even more in Diet Coke’s favor. In 1995 Diet Coke was third among all soft drinks in market share, with 8.8 percent, the same as the previous year. Diet Pepsi was fifth, the same place as in 1994, but lost 0.1 percent. By the last quarter of 1996 Diet Pepsi had fallen to seventh place, in spite of a 1.6 percent gain in sales volume. In its previous number four spot was Coca-Cola’s soda Sprite. Just $243,000 was spent on advertising Diet Pepsi in 1996, but in early 1997 PepsiCo completely repositioned its strategy with a new $19 million campaign.

In the first half of 1997, Diet Coke kept its number three position in the soft drink lineup, diet sodas overall continued to lose market share, and Diet Pepsi launched its new campaign featuring the slogan ‘‘This is diet?’’ During that time Coca-Cola had performed extensive research and positioning studies that led to the articulation of a new strategy: ‘‘Diet Coke helps you look and feel your best.’’ This was based in large part on the fact that, after all was said and done, there was nothing new, such as a better sweetener, on which to construct a more exciting message. Promoting taste alone was no longer an option. Moreover, Diet Pepsi had just launched its tasteoriented ‘‘This is diet?’’ ads. Lowe & Partners/SMS worked with Coca-Cola to produce three TV ads for the campaign, ‘‘Aunt Rosalina,’’ ‘‘Blizzard,’’ and ‘‘Queen.’’ The campaign followed swiftly on the heels of an image revamp for the brand, executed by SBG Partners, San Francisco, which consisted of a silvery new package and new graphics for the drink. It was designed to align the brand with various consumer lifestyles and represented the first genuine strategy for the brand since 1994. Coke executives believed that ‘‘the repositioning would re-energize the static diet category,’’ according to MediaWeek. The campaign broke on May 19, timed for the start of the summer season, and ran on network and cable.
The ‘‘Blizzard’’ spot showed two men commenting on women walking by who were bundled up against the cold. The women who drank Diet Cokes through their scarves were the ones the men favored. The ‘‘Queen’’ commercial showed a mirror telling a queen that she no longer was fair; rather, a girl drinking Diet Coke was. ‘‘Aunt Rosalina,’’ the most controversial spot in the series, was set in an Italian village. After watching a parade of beautiful, fit women who stroll by proudly holding cans of Diet Coke, a lovely little girl asks her old aunt, ‘‘If I drink Diet Coke, will I be beautiful too?’’ Aunt Rosalina replies, ‘‘I never had a Diet Coke, and look at me.’’ The camera moves to reveal her to be an ugly hag. The ad was rotated with ‘‘Blizzard’’ and ‘‘Queen’’ and received far less weight—166 spots out of 844. Approximately 60 percent of the commercials were shown during primetime, 20 percent during the day, and 10 percent during late night.
The tag line for these commercials, ‘‘You are what you drink,’’ was meant to be tongue-in-cheek and lighthearted while conveying the message that drinking Diet Coke could help the consumer look and feel good. In ‘‘Aunt Rosalina’’ this message was reinforced by the attractive women who were drinking Diet Coke. Intentionally they were caricatures rather than characters; the viewer was not expected to think she magically would look that way by drinking Diet Coke. In that sense the ad spoofed in a subtle way the goal of ideal physical beauty. Sergio Zyman, quoted in USA Today, explained that ‘‘this latest wave of advertising is less about well-recognized intrinsic attributes of the brand, such as taste and one-calorie refreshment. It is more about how someone feels and the self-confidence they project when they hold a Diet Coke.’’ Zyman told The Wall Street Journal Europe that for Coke to continue to rely on the theme of ‘‘taste and one-calorie is kind of beating a dead horse’’ and that the aim now was to ‘‘broaden the definition of Diet Coke. I would like to see people walking around with Diet Coke.’’ Or, as AdWeek ’s Debrah Goldman put it, the real message of the campaign was ‘‘to establish Diet Coke as a fashion accessory, . . . la Evian.’’

‘‘Just for the taste of it’’: 1982–1992, 1995–1997.
‘‘One awesome calorie’’: 1993.
‘‘Taste it all’’: 1992.
‘‘This is refreshment’’: 1994.
‘‘You are what you drink’’: 1997.

Consumer and critical reaction to the commercials was fast and harsh, and the airing of ‘‘Aunt Rosalina’’ ended on July 20, 1997, three months after it began. Coca-Cola received letters from customers criticizing its ‘‘sexist’’ approach. A nationwide poll reported in USA Today of 271 adults who had seen the Diet Coke commercials showed that 10 percent of all respondents liked the ads a lot, but this fell to only 3 percent for 18-to-24 year olds. Fully 21 percent of respondents disliked the spots. But a significant percentage, 16 percent, said the commercials were very effective, and almost two-thirds considered them somewhat effective, indicating conflict over the message. Responses of critics revealed that the intended playfulness of the commercials missed the mark. The milder commentary critiqued the spots for presumptuousness and lack of subtlety. Goldman of AdWeek wrote, ‘‘These spots are a classic case of a campaign with its briefs showing. Sure, Coca-Cola wants you to be what you drink, just as other advertisers hope you are what you wear or drive . . . .But an advertisement’s job is to elicit that reaction, not to assume it, or, worse, to pretend that it already exists.’’
On National Public Radio’s Morning Edition, Joshua Levs questioned Coca-Cola’s Bob Bertini, who presented the rationale behind the commercials. Then Levs zeroed in: ‘‘ ‘You are what you drink’—who wants to be carbonated water, caramel color, aspartame, and potassium benzoate?’’ That he could even consider such a literal reading of the line—the very week the spot first aired—signaled serious problems with the commercial for Coke. Bob Garfield of Advertising Age opened his review of ‘‘Aunt Rosalina’’ with ‘‘This just in: Men are pigs.’’ He interpreted the commercial as affirming that the value of women lies in their slenderness and attractiveness to men. He did not see or accept that the spot’s humor actually poked fun at this attitude. The ‘‘troubling new spots,’’ he wrote, ‘‘remind women how important Diet Coke is in their relentless pursuit of svelteness, men’s attraction and self-esteem . . . . In the end, for all their tongue-in-cheek exaggeration, these spots don’t lampoon the cult of beauty. They validate it.’’
The ‘‘feel your best’’ component of the message seemed to have evaporated. The media budget was reduced as a result of this negative response, and creative development was undertaken to rectify the situation. Lowe produced two commercials, ‘‘Big Wrestlers,’’ which featured Sumo wrestlers who sincerely compliment each other’s appearance despite their tremendous size, and ‘‘It’s Him,’’ centered on an invisible man who is admired by attractive women in a bar, presumably because of his confidence and demeanor. These new spots, however, were attempts to breathe life into positions consumers had already rejected; ‘‘look and feel your best’’ had died. They received little weight in the last quarter of 1997 and were shelved in early 1998.
Shortly after ‘‘Aunt Rosalina’’ flopped, Wieden & Kennedy of Portland, Oregon, was assigned six 30-second Diet Coke commercials in a last-ditch attempt to get some traction. This spurred media speculation that Wieden would become the new agency for the brand. The spots were not well received. After that Coca-Cola recognized the need to step back and undertake ‘‘extensive research . . . to determine a strategy and long-term direction for the brand.’’ Two earlier spots produced by Lowe were aired then and continued to be aired through the summer of 1998.
In March 1998 Sergio Zyman resigned from Coca-Cola. The man who replaced Zyman, Charles S. Frenette, was Zyman’s opposite in terms of personality and operations background. Frenette continued to work with Lowe & Partners. He indicated that he planned to take a longer-term strategic approach to the Coke-Lowe partnership, so critical for the marketing of Diet Coke during times of cultural and demographic upheaval.


Despite being the top soft-drink company in the world, the Coca-Cola Company showed signs of struggle in the 1990s, when consumers worldwide started demonstrating a strong preference for healthier beverages. Coca-Cola’s subsequent marketing efforts, including the 2003 ‘‘Real’’ campaign, reflected this change.
The multimillion-dollar ‘‘Real’’ campaign, which used a combination of music and celebrity presence to promote Coke Classic, was reminiscent of Coca-Cola ads from the 1960s to the ‘90s. The ‘‘Real’’ campaign’s message itself, that Coke is the ‘‘Real’’ thing, was a reminder of the company’s long heritage. The campaign’s numerous television and radio spots, as well as print ads, were targeted toward a teen and young-adult market, just as Coke advertising had long been. It was with these consumers in mind that the company signed on such actors as Penelope Cruz and Courtney Cox Arquette, as well as musicians Common and Mya, to promote the product.
The campaign was attention grabbing, catching the eyes and ears of its target audience. Most consumers who were polled claimed to like the ads ‘‘a lot.’’ The press seemed equally entertained by the campaign, raving about its advertising success, especially compared with the past three botched advertising attempts that Coke had recently endured. In fact, many ad critics thought the ‘‘Real’’ campaign marked the first Coke advertising success in a decade. The success, however, was not a financial one. Despite the campaign’s popularity, sales of Coke products, especially Coke Classic, continued to dwindle. Coke Classic in 2003 experienced a disheartening 3 percent decrease in sales. ‘‘Real’’ ran until 2005, when it was replaced by ‘‘Make It Real,’’ an extension of the previous campaign.

In May 1886 Jacobs’ Pharmacy in Atlanta sold the first serving of Coca-Cola. Invented by John Pemberton (a Civil War veteran and pharmacist), the soft drink contained syrup, sugar, and carbonation, along with the caffeine-rich kola nut and the drug cocaine. The name Coca-Cola was invented by Pemberton’s bookkeeper, Frank Robinson, who also wrote the distinct script that has been sprawled on all Coca-Cola products to date. The beverage was not an instant success. In its first year at Jacobs’ Pharmacy, approximately nine servings were sold each day. Pemberton ended up with a $20 loss overall. But success, though not immediate, was right around the corner.
By the late 1890s Coca-Cola had become one of America’s most popular fountain drinks. And soon thereafter it was being sold all across the United States and Canada. Advertising played a key role in Coca-Cola’s early success, and for some time to come advertising would continue to contribute to its success. Its 1930s Santa advertising helped to create the modern image of Saint Nick, as well as an increased personal connection between consumers and Coke. In 1971 (while war persisted in Vietnam) a similar result was found with a television commercial showing young people gathered on a hilltop in Italy, singing, ‘‘I’d like to buy the world a Coke.’’ More than two decades later the ‘‘Always Coca-Cola’’ campaign, which introduced the very popular Coke-drinking polar bears, also ended with positive results. But advertising success would not come so easily in the future.
‘‘Always Coca-Cola’’ continued through 2000, when it was replaced by ‘‘Coca-Cola. Enjoy.’’ Neither campaign met with success. In 2001 Coca-Cola launched ‘‘Life Tastes Good,’’ but the campaign was pulled in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Largely because of consumers’ increasing preference for healthier beverages, sales of Coca-Cola were steadily declining. But perhaps consumers simply missed the polar bears and the entertaining campaign that featured them. With the thought that consumers might be won over by another successful advertising campaign, Coca-Cola threw millions into its 2003 ‘‘Real’’ advertising campaign.

Since the 1990s Coke Classic had experienced a decrease in market share and volume in the beverage industry, especially among its younger consumers. Largely as a result of a nationwide focus on obesity and other health issues, which resulted in healthier eating habits (especially among the young), tastes for beverages changed. According to Beverage Digest, during each year between 1996 and 2000, Coke Classic’s sales either fell flat or reflected a decline. In 2000 there was a 0.1 percent increase. Younger people simply drank less cola than had earlier generations, preferring instead such beverages as bottled water, juices, and flavored sodas.
Coke’s 2003 ‘‘Real’’ campaign targeted the younger generation the company felt it was losing. While many longtime consumers had remained loyal to Coke, most of these represented an aging population. Young adults, in contrast, had the potential to be targeted for years to come. Because of this Coke’s ‘‘Real’’ campaign had a celebrity-heavy focus. Such big names as Cruz and Cox Arquette starred in new Coke commercials. The campaign premiered its first advertisement (the television commercial ‘‘Real Compared to What’’) during the 2003 American Music Awards, an event that typically drew a young audience.

The Coca-Cola Company’s three main competitors were PepsiCo, Cadbury Schweppes, and Nestle´. Presenting the most challenging competition for Coca-Cola was PepsiCo, which had also long ago branched out beyond cola. Coke had extended its reach far into the ‘‘other beverages’’ market with Fanta, Sprite, Barq’s, Minute Maid, and Dasani water, among others, to a tune of some 400 drink brands in all, including coffees, juices, sports drinks, waters, and teas. PepsiCo had similarly expanded its ‘‘other beverages’’ market, having acquired, for example, Tropicana orange juice and Aquafina water (the top seller of bottled water in the United States). But PepsiCo also had gone beyond beverages by adding a number of nonbeverage food products, including Frito-Lay (the world’s number one distributor of corn chips and potato chips) and Rold Gold Pretzels. Although Cadbury Schweppes and Nestle´ might have seemed the less-obvious competitors of Coke products, they each succeeded in taking market share from the world’s leading soft-drink company. Largely associated with its chocolates, British-owned Cadbury, after merging with Schweppes in 1969, became a top competitor in the beverage business. With a long list of beverages offered (including 7 UP, A&W Root Beer, Canada Although Coca-Cola was the world’s leading softdrink distributor (with a 44 percent market share in 2003, a clear lead over second-place PepsiCo, at 31.8 percent), some of its competitors brought in significantly larger overall sales. In 2004, for instance, Nestle´’s total sales exceeded $76 billion and PepsiCo’s was in the neighborhood of $29 billion, while Coca-Cola’s was less than $22 billion. (Cadbury Schweppes trailed the pack at approximately $13 billion.)

Coca-Cola wanted to remind consumers of its past, its authenticity, its ‘‘realness’’ in its 2003 ‘‘Real’’ campaign. Created by ad agency Berlin Cameron/Red Cell in New York, the new slogan played off Coca-Cola slogans of the past: ‘‘It’s the real thing’’ and ‘‘Can’t beat the real thing.’’ (Initially the job of coming up with a new campaign was assigned to both Berlin and McCann-Erikson Worldwide Advertising in New York. With its ‘‘Real’’ idea Berlin took over the new campaign.)
Coca-Cola believed the ‘‘Real’’ campaign could return the company to a level of success that at least equaled what it had experienced during its ‘‘Always Coca-Cola’’ campaign years of 1996–98. (During that period the Coca-Cola Company had enjoyed an average 5 percent increase in volume change per year.) To achieve this goal Coke and Berlin relied heavily on a musical and celebrity presence. The campaign debuted with a 90-second ‘‘Real Compared to What’’ television commercial during the 2003 American Music Awards. In the commercial R&B singer Mya and hip-hop artist Common performed a remake of the 1960s jazz hit ‘‘Compared to What.’’ The commercial’s debut followed the duo’s presentation of the Coca-Cola New Music Award to the top unsigned artist or band.
In another television commercial, ‘‘Penelope,’’ Cruz walked into a restaurant, guzzled a Coke Classic, burped, and giggled. ‘‘The Arquettes’’ was filmed on a set that copied the real home of Cox Arquette and husband David Arquette. A motive of the commercials was to reveal celebrities during ‘‘real’’ moments in which they enjoyed a ‘‘real’’ soft drink. In all more than a dozen television spots were filmed for the campaign. They featured a variety of celebrities, including late-night talk-show host Craig Kilborn, cyclist Lance Armstrong, and members of Coke’s NASCAR racing team. The campaign also included a major tie-in with the 2003 NCAA basketball tournament and a summer promotion that awarded families trips to theme parks. And in addition to its television presence, ‘‘Real’’ advertising was found in print, online, and on the radio waves. As to the latter Coke went all out, introducing ‘‘Coke FM,’’ in which 60-second spots featured well-known musicians. In all mediums the advertising efforts represented an attempt by Coca-Cola to return to the values of past campaigns. Coke wished to reveal its ‘‘real’’ values. As one consulting firm adviser pointed out, the ‘‘Real’’ campaign was something that easily could have been done in any decade since the 1960s. The question was, would consumers go for it?

In 1892, six years after Coca-Cola was first sold (for five cents a glass, in Atlanta’s Jacobs’ Pharmacy), the company had an advertising budget of $11,401 (accounting for inflation this would represent $234,006.49 in 2005). A budget of this size was highly unusual for the time. The advertising agenda included hiring salesmen to travel across the country to sell Coca-Cola to various businesses. To convince business owners to order the soda, the company often offered free merchandise (for instance, prescription scales and decorative clocks) that displayed the Coca-Cola logo. Another strategy involved the distribution of coupons, which allowed proprietors to try Coca-Cola for free.
Lastly Coca-Cola began placing its name everywhere:
on newspapers, outdoor posters, wall and barn signs, streetcar cards, and many other places. The combination of these efforts proved quite successful, and before long Coca-Cola had become a household name.
Dry, Dr Pepper, and Hawaiian Punch), Cadbury Schweppes managed to place itself third among the world’s top soft-drink providers. Nestle´, the top-selling food company in the world, became the world leader in coffee sales and one of the world’s largest makers of bottled water.

Consumers were positive in their ratings of the ‘‘Real’’ advertisements. For instance, shortly after the campaign debuted a Harris study revealed that 25 percent of respondents claimed to ‘‘like the ads a lot,’’ while only 8 percent claimed to ‘‘dislike the ads.’’ Of those who liked the ads ‘‘a lot,’’ the largest presence was among 25- to 29-year-olds, followed by 18- to 24-year-olds. Thus Coke’s target market had indeed been reached. Financially, though, the campaign did not measure so successfully. Coca-Cola finished 2003 with a small decline in volume, down 0.2 percent from 2002. The results for Coke Classic were far less desirable: a 3 percent decrease from 2002.
Regardless of the popularity of the ‘‘Real’’ campaign, which generated a multitude of positive press, there was not much hope to promote Coke Classic in a marketplace that was squeezing out sugary colas. Contrary to the campaign’s message, consumers, who had been seeking healthier, lighter drinks, might actually have preferred the ‘‘unreal’’ thing. This could later be demonstrated by the notable success of Diet Coke with Lime (2004) and the introduction of other varieties of Diet Coke by 2005, including calorie-free Coca-Cola Zero (designed to taste more like Coke Classic than like Diet Coke).
Even as the ‘‘Real’’ campaign did not send consumers in droves to purchase Coke Classic, Coca-Cola hoped the campaign’s popularity would have lasting effects, prompting consumers to purchase the Coca-Cola brand product that better suited their tastes. To launch the new, healthier version of the classic, the 2005 Coca-Cola Zero campaign (‘‘Everybody Chill’’) took an approach similar to that of the ‘‘Real’’ campaign by reviving the 1971 ‘‘I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke’’ television spot. Thus ‘‘Everybody Chill’’ repeated the trend of looking to the past in the quest to find future customers.


In late 2003 the Coca-Cola Company’s lemon-lime softdrink brand, Sprite, reigned as America’s fifth-best-selling soft drink and the highest-grossing lemon-lime soda in America. Even though Sprite appeared to be the clear leader over all lemon-lime soft drink brands, its market share was rapidly slipping to Sierra Mist, a lemon-lime soft drink sold by the Pepsi-Cola Company. Reusing its long-running tagline that was conceived by the ad agency Lowe & Partners in 1994, Sprite released a new variation of the ‘‘Obey Your Thirst’’ campaign to keep its product relevant to its 16- to 24-year-old target demographic. The WPP Group’s advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather released three television spots in February 2004 that introduced Sprite’s new mascot, Miles Thirst, a 10-inch-tall puppet. Hoping to attract the youth of the hip-hop and basketball cultures, Miles Thirst’s wardrobe consisted of flashy hip-hop garb. The wisecracking puppet proclaimed his love for Sprite in two television spots. In a third commercial, titled ‘‘LeBron,’’ LeBron James, the National Basketball Association (NBA) all-star, gave Miles Thirst a tour of his decadent home. The puppet appeared unimpressed until James led him into his kitchen, which was equipped with a Sprite vending machine. The campaign’s 2004 budget was estimated at $45 million. Besides the television spots, media included online advertisement, a Miles Thirst website, and the passing out of free posters, magnets, stickers, and T-shirts featuring Miles Thirst. The campaign and tagline ended in 2005 after Sprite dropped Ogilvy & Mather for the Miami-based advertising agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky.
Overall success for the 2004 campaign was mild. Besides collecting a Bronze One Show Award in the category of Promotional and Point of Purchase Posters in 2004, the campaign was also appreciated by a majority of its target market. ‘‘Obey Your Thirst’’ commercials were ‘‘liked a lot’’ by 18 to 24 year olds, according to the weekly consumer poll Ad Track, conducted by USA Today. Unfortunately for Sprite, sales fell 3 percent in 2004, and its overall 5.7 percent share of the soft-drink industry was dwindling.

After Lowe & Partners created the ‘‘Obey Your Thirst’’ campaign in 1994, Sprite enjoyed strong market growth into the late 1990s. It was the fastest-growing Coca-Cola brand in 1997 and sold 6 percent more cases over the previous year. By 2001, however, sales had begun to wane, and Coca-Cola executives feared that Sprite and other Coca-Cola brands were falling out of style with the younger crowd. Hoping a different ad agency would reenergize its lemon-lime brand, Coca-Cola awarded its Sprite advertising account to Ogilvy & Mather in 2001. To bolster Sprite’s image Coca-Cola also paid NBA superstar Kobe Bryant to endorse the lemon-lime soft drink. Bryant was featured in commercials that used the tagline ‘‘Obey your thirst,’’ along with an additional tagline, ‘‘What’s your thirst?’’ Tom Pirko, president of the beverage-industry consulting firm Bevmark, told Advertising Age, ‘‘Coke has been attacked as being dowdy and ultra-conservative, so they want to stay relevant.’’ Sprite stopped airing commercials featuring Bryant in 2003 after a 19-year-old Colorado woman accused him of rape.
The 2003 television spot ‘‘Rikkia’’ was the first Sprite advertisement released by Ogilvy & Mather. It featured the race-car star Rikkia Miller speeding around the racetrack to music by the rock group the Donnas. Miller also provided a voice-over for ‘‘Rikkia’’ in which she explained her love for racing. Just before drinking a Sprite at the spot’s conclusion, Miller looked into the camera and asked, ‘‘What’s my thirst?’’ Sprite’s sales jumped 12 percent in the second quarter of 2003 after the brand released its new flavor Sprite Remix, a lemon-lime soda with a twist of tropical fruit ‘‘Sprite is a great brand, but it has been in decline for several years. It badly needs a shot in the arm,’’ John Sicher, editor and publisher of Beverage Digest, an industry publication, told the Dow Jones News Service. ‘‘Remix will help, but additional aggressive steps are also necessary.’’ That same year Sprite negotiated a $2 million-peryear endorsement contract with basketball all-star LeBron James. Hoping to regain relevance within its target market, Sprite in February 2004 released a version of ‘‘Obey Your Thirst’’ that featured James along with Sprite’s new mascot, a puppet named Miles Thirst.

‘‘Obey Your Thirst’’ targeted 16 to 24 year olds. According to KPMG Consumer Markets Insider, a company that analyzed different industry trends, teenagers did not respond to advertisements in the same way as adults. Teenagers typically listened to ‘‘brand ambassadors,’’ young celebrities or fellow teenagers that established credibility amongst their peers. To endorse the soft drink, Sprite hired NBA star LeBron James, who was only 20 years old during the 2004 leg of ‘‘Obey Your Thirst.’’ The new Sprite mascot, Miles Thirst, a 10-inch puppet dressed in hip-hop clothing such as oversized watches, baggy pants, and gold chains, was also featured in Sprite advertisements in 2004 and 2005. ‘‘Thirst was the perfect choice for Sprite,’’ John Carroll, group director for Sprite, told the PR Newswire. ‘‘Not only does Thirst represent everything Sprite stands for, he recognizes and represents the aspects of youth culture that are inherent to Sprite drinkers. Plus, you couldn’t ask for a better last name.’’
Although Miles Thirst was an African-American puppet, the campaign did not solely target an African-American demographic. ‘‘Hip-hop is a $1 billion-a-year industry that could not survive on just black people,’’ Shawn Prez, president of the urban-marketing group Power Moves, remarked in USA Today about Miles Thirst and his hip-hop appeal. ‘‘When you’re making this kind of money, [hip-hop] has crossed gender, race and age groups. The white audience for hip-hop is much larger than the black audience at this point.’’ In 2004 white, suburban teenage males spent more money on hip-hop products than any other group, according to USA Today.

Ranking third in soft-drink sales (behind Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, Inc.), Dr Pepper/Seven Up, Inc., struggled to bolster its own flagship lemon-lime brand, Seven Up, in 2004. Young & Rubicam Advertising had handled Seven Up’s $25 to $45 million yearly advertising budget since 1995. Initial campaign taglines touted Seven Up as the ‘‘uncola,’’ referencing the drink’s lack of cola, an ingredient found in Pepsi and Coca-Cola soft drinks. Next, the ‘‘Are You an Un?’’ campaign was launched, but it was quickly discontinued in 1999 after its appeal to 12 to 24 year olds proved ineffective. The sales of Seven Up’s 192-ounce cases dropped from 174 million sold in 2002 to 126 million sold in 2003. In 2004 Seven Up advertisements featured the tagline ‘‘Make 7Up Yours.’’ The avoidance of using ‘‘un’’ or ‘‘cola’’ was an attempt by Young & Rubicam to make Seven Up appeal to younger consumers unfamiliar with the cola reference. According to Gary A. Hemphill, senior vice president of the Beverage Marketing Corporation, which offered research and consulting services to the soft-drink industry, the drop in Seven Up sales resulted from the growing success of Sierra Mist, a lemon-lime soft drink sold by Pepsi under the tagline ‘‘shockingly refreshing.’’ After the brand was introduced in early 2001, its sales climbed 89.3 percent between 2002 and 2003. The successful new competitor prompted Seven Up and Sprite to rethink their marketing strategies. Sprite created commercials with Miles Thirst. Hoping to regain its slipping market share, Seven Up approached several different advertising agencies outside of Young & Rubicam.

Born on December 30, 1984, LeBron James was the youngest NBA basketball player to receive the Rookie of the Year award (2003–2004). The six-foot-eightinch forward, who began endorsing the lemon-lime soft drink Sprite in 2003, was one of only three rookies in NBA history to average 20 points a game.

In 2003 Sprite signed a $12 million dollar, six-year deal with the NBA Rookie of the Year LeBron James. Ogilvy & Mather also created a mascot for Sprite, Miles Thirst, a wisecracking puppet whose mouth remained closed while speaking. Reno Wilson, an actor who had frequently appeared on the hit television program The Cosby Show, provided Miles Thirst’s voice. The puppet portion of ‘‘Obey Your Thirst’’ kicked off on February 14, 2004, when three commercial spots, ‘‘LeBron,’’ ‘‘Two Sprites,’’ and ‘‘What’s Better Than Sprite?’’ aired during the NBA All-Star game. In all the spots Miles Thirst was shown in several different wardrobes reflecting hip-hop fashions. Ogilvy & Mather hoped the combination of James’s endorsement and a humorous Spriteloving puppet would compel 16 to 24 year olds to drink Sprite.
In the 30-second spot titled ‘‘LeBron,’’ James gave Miles Thirst a tour of his luxurious home. The spot mimicked the MTV program Cribs, in which celebrities allowed MTV camera crews to tour their houses. During ‘‘LeBron,’’ Miles Thirst appeared disinterested in James’s furnishings, which included a king-size waterbed and a plasma television. The puppet became suddenly excited about the tour when he noticed a giant Sprite vending machine in James’s kitchen. In the spot ‘‘Two Sprites,’’ Miles Thirst explained to curious onlookers why he preferred to have two extra-large Sprites in the cup holders of his movie theater seat. ‘‘Never be too far away from the big, thirst-quenching taste of Sprite,’’ the puppet explained The commercial’s humor hinged on the beautiful women flanking Thirst at the spot’s conclusion. The spot ‘‘What’s Better than Sprite?’’ featured Thirst challenging his friends to name one thing better than Sprite. Suddenly two beautiful women passed, prompting Thirst to rephrase the challenge: ‘‘Alright! Name two!’’ Miles Thirst ended each spot by demanding, ‘‘Show me my motto.’’ The screen then displayed the tagline ‘‘Obey your thirst.’’
Adweek magazine’s Barbara Lippert wrote of the campaign, ‘‘The set-up—a sexualized vinyl doll spouting street lingo—could easily devolve into an obvious, annoying, pandering and even racist attempt to getdown-in-the-hood-with-the-bros. Instead, it’s quick, funny and real enough.’’ Other critics were not as pleased. The Rainbow/Push Coalition, a discrimination watchdog group founded by the Reverend Jesse Jackson, accused the puppet of propagating negative African-American stereotypes. ‘‘We’ve had some conversations with Coke about Miles. We let them know that we think the character is ill-advised,’’ Janice Mathis, a Rainbow/ Push vice president, told Brandweek.
The website was created for the campaign. Miles Thirst also appeared on MTV as a guest, and 1,500 Miles Thirst dolls were mailed to ‘‘key trend influencers around the country,’’ according to USA Today. In May 2004 Ogilvy & Mather released further commercials with Miles Thirst explaining Sprite’s ‘‘Thirst Out’’ promotion, in which consumers could win video rentals, digital music downloads, and mobilephone ring tones.

Lisa Speakman, senior brand manager for Sprite at Coca-Cola, told Brandweek that the 2004 segment of ‘‘Obey Your Thirst’’ was the highest rated in recent Sprite history. ‘‘Our internal brand-health scores are increasing on the Sprite brand. This indicates the marketing is having its desired effect over time,’’ she said in April 2004. The campaign also garnered a Bronze One Show Award for Promotional and Point of Purchase Posters in 2004. Despite higher ratings and an advertising-industry award, however, the campaign failed to halt Sprite’s drop in sales. The soft-drink’s sales dipped 3 percent in 2004, according to Beverage Digest, a publication covering the nonalcoholic-beverages industry.
Sprite was not the only lemon-lime soft drink to lose sales in 2004. Seven Up was knocked from the list of top-10 soda brands, a change that many analysts attributed to the rising popularity of Pepsi’s Sierra Mist, a lemon-lime drink released in 2001. Sierra Mist sales grew 89.3 percent in 2003 compared with 2002. Sprite’s 2005 sales slump prompted Coca-Cola to end Ogilvy & Mather’s advertising for its Sprite brand and to discontinue its ‘‘Obey your thirst’’ tagline.

Saturday, May 24, 2008


First marketed in 1961 by the Coca-Cola Company, the lemon-lime soft drink Sprite was in the late 1990s one of the fastest growing carbonated soft drinks in the United States and around the world. As of mid-1998 Sprite was the number-three soft drink in the world and the number-five soft drink brand in the United States. From 1994 to 1998 the brand experienced global doubledigit growth. This period of dramatic expansion coincided with the launch of the brand’s ad campaign ‘‘Obey Your Thirst.’’
Introduced in 1994, the ‘‘Obey Your Thirst’’ campaign—created by Lowe & Partners/SMS of New York—established Sprite’s distinct brand personality through humorous, tongue-in-cheek spots that reinforced the ‘‘trust your instincts’’ concept. The campaign aimed to speak directly to the drink’s target market, teenagers, rather than talking down to them.
From its inception ‘‘Obey Your Thirst’’ relied on the power of a 1990s trend toward ‘‘anti-advertising.’’ The commercials in this campaign parodied those for other products that used hype and image-building to appeal to consumers. ‘‘Consumers are jaded by advertising,’’ declared Lee Garfinkel, cochairman and chief creative officer at Lowe & Partners/SMS. ‘‘In order to reach certain people, advertising that doesn’t take advertising too seriously is appreciated by the consumer.’’
The ‘‘certain people’’ that Garfinkel had in mind were mostly teenagers, particularly inner city teenagers. To go along with its ads, Sprite marketers designed an aggressive marketing campaign to appeal to this demographic. Co-promotions with the National Basketball Association (NBA), including appearances by some of its emerging stars in Sprite commercials, helped erect an image for Sprite as the brand of hip, sometimes cynical young people everywhere.

Sprite started out in a niche category—lemon-lime soft drinks—but by the mid-1990s had clearly broken away and transcended into a mainstream brand. In 1994 Sprite passed the one-billion unit case mark worldwide—a significant milestone in terms of the size of the brand. An aggressive marketing strategy aimed at urban youth has been credited with Sprite’s explosive growth. Since 1994 Sprite has been the official soft drink of the NBA, a growing worldwide sports property that has been particularly popular with youth. Adding to Sprite’s appeal, its packaging was distinctive and attention getting; graphics introduced in 1994 added a crisp blue color to Sprite’s traditional green.
In 1994 Sprite retired its upbeat ad campaign ‘‘I Like the Sprite in You’’ for an edgier approach designed to appeal to Generation X. The new tag line, in its full iteration, read: ‘‘Image is nothing. Thirst is everything. Obey your thirst.’’ Among the first commercials in the campaign, targeted at teens and young adults, was one featuring basketball star Grant Hill in a parody of pretentious fashion commercials. Oddball humor, the use of basketball endorsers, and the appeal to youth culture were to remain staples of the ‘‘Obey Your Thirst’’ campaign.
By 1996 Coca-Cola USA was spending $55.7 million to advertise Sprite in the United States alone. The brand’s innovative spots helped Sprite move $1.2 billion cases worldwide that year, and the beverage zoomed to the number-four position among U.S. soft drinks. Still, the parent company looked to increase its ad budget for 1997. ‘‘The more the brand grows, the more we spend,’’ declared Sergio Zyman, Coca-Cola’s chief marketing officer, in the pages of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In a bid to spur even further growth, Coca-Cola ordered a tune-up of the Sprite advertising strategy. In April 1997 the company unveiled five new Sprite commercials under the ‘‘Obey Your Thirst’’ rubric. The new spots, created in partnership with Lowe & Partners/SMS, were said to mark a creative new direction for the brand.

By sharpening the focus and defining Sprite’s personality—energetic, edgy, and straightforward—Sprite’s marketers made the brand more relevant to its target audience. The goal of Sprite advertising in the 1990s seemed simple—to convey that Sprite was a thirst-quenching drink with an attitude that connected with teenagers. This approach proved to be very appealing to young people who did not want to be ‘‘marketed to’’ in the traditional sense. Sprite’s commercials humorously poke fun at hard-sell tactics while focusing on one basic premise:
Sprite may not make consumers more popular, more beautiful, or even NBA superstars, but it will quench their thirst.
Sprite’s marketers designed this message to be pertinent around the world. The brand’s ‘‘edge’’ and unpretentious attitude were crafted to speak to youth in all different cultures. According to official company press materials, ‘‘Teens around the world share the desire to be able to express themselves and make their own choices. Sprite aims to encourage and represent this attitude.’’

Once considered a ‘‘niche’’ product, Sprite in the 1990s was no longer viewed as competing in the lemon-lime category but rather as competing against other mainstream soft drinks. In fact, Sprite sales surpassed those of its principal lemon-lime competitor, 7-Up, in 1993. But there still was one niche market that Sprite advertisers continued to try to capture: young people. With ‘‘Obey Your Thirst,’’ Coca-Cola USA aimed Sprite ads at specific age groups. At the same time, rival soda maker PepsiCo Inc. was turning away from this practice. It believed that trying to execute a niche strategy in the soft drink industry carried too many risks because companies invariably fail to reach any customers outside the target audience.
In 1996 the Sprite brand concluded one of its most spectacular years of market performance. Sales surged an impressive 17.6 percent, displacing venerable Diet Pepsi along with Mountain Dew and Dr. Pepper to become America’s fourth-ranked soft drink. 7-Up, in eighth place, dropped 0.2 percent in volume. ‘‘Sprite has been highly successful . . . much of it at the expense of 7-Up,’’ observed Paine Webber analyst Emanuel Goldman in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Sprite’s strong performance, together with the robust sales of Coke and Diet Coke, gave Coca-Cola USA three of the four top soft drink brands for the first time since 1985.
In response to the challenge from Sprite, Dr. Pepper/Seven Up Inc. in 1997 announced plans to reformulate 7-Up, making it less sweet and giving it a crisper taste. Industry analysts expected the reformulation to make 7-Up taste more like Sprite. The company also planned to introduce new graphics for 7-Up packages as well as a new advertising campaign.

Sprite has reaped much success from its ‘‘Obey Your Thirst’’ commercials playing to the cynical attitudes of 1990s youth. The ads gained their satirical punch from the debunking of other ads that relied on hype and image building. This approach was said to appeal to jaded Generation X consumers raised in an age of media manipulation. But playing to the apathy of the public has not always been successful. In fact, as Coca-Cola USA discovered when it tried to market the first Generation X soft drink, it can backfire spectacularly. The concoction was called OK Soda and was the brainchild of Coca-Cola USA marketing chief Sergio Zyman (who would later develop the New Age beverage Fruitopia). Introduced in selected cities in mid-1994, OK Soda brandished matte-gray cans featuring downbeat drawings by underground comic book artists. The emblazoned slogans were equally doleful. ‘‘What’s the point of OK soda?’’ read one representative caption. ‘‘Well what’s the point of anything?’’
Advertising for the seemingly depressing drink was created by the prominent Portland ad house of Wieden & Kennedy. A 1-800-I-FEEL-OK hotline was offered, where callers could record comments, listen to the cynical (and agency-crafted) ramblings of others, and take a Generation X ‘‘personality test.’’ OK Soda’s advertising message failed to overcome its reputed deficiencies of taste. The nine-city campaign failed, and the product was quietly withdrawn from circulation.

In addition to relating a straightforward message that Sprite was a light, crisp, and refreshing beverage, Sprite marketers wanted to convey that Sprite was not pretentious. Since the introduction of the ‘‘Obey Your Thirst’’ campaign in 1994, the Sprite brand spoke to legitimacy and integrity, encouraging consumers to trust their instincts and, in a sense, saying to teenagers, ‘‘Exercise your own judgment.’’ The earliest ‘‘Obey Your Thirst’’ commercials parodied the pomposity and pretense of commercials for other products. Specifically in Sprite’s crosshairs were spots for Canon cameras featuring tennis star Andre Agassi, in which the tennis star declares, ‘‘Image is everything.’’ A series of humorous Sprite spots inverted this concept and those of similar commercials. Coca-Cola USA’s 1997 advertising strategy for Sprite retained the ‘‘Obey Your Thirst’’ tag line and the irreverent, icon-bashing tone of previous spots for the brand. The newer spots continued to poke fun at other company’s ads. But they also took on an edgier tone, as Coca-Cola USA sought to meet its goal of capturing 50 percent of domestic market share by the turn of the century. There were five new spots in all, all created by Lowe & Partners/SMS. Perhaps the most daring—and the most critically well-received—was a commercial that parodied Coca-Cola’s own commercials from the 1980s by providing information on Jooky, a mythical newfangled soft drink. A group of youthful party goers are shown living it up with their Jookies on the beach when the camera pans back to show two slack-jawed gawkers watching the ‘‘commercial’’ on television. When they pop the tops on their own Jookies, however, no party breaks out. ‘‘Oh, man,’’ says one. ‘‘Mine’s busted.’’ The voice-over then instructs: ‘‘Trust your taste buds, not commercials.’’
The other spots in the campaign were similar in tone. One poked fun at product demonstrations. Another took aim at the venerable Budweiser frogs, showing a bear eating out of a tin can while a frog snacked on a slimy worm. In another, perennial ‘‘Obey Your Thirst’’ pitchman Grant Hill fends off offers from an agent to do television shows, books, and record albums. The spot was seen as an oblique parody of Pepsi commercials featuring basketball star Shaquille O’Neal. A third commercial told visitors to Hollywood to bring along their own Sprite because ‘‘a place this concerned with image just doesn’t have any.’’ This was a clear spoof of the popular Visa credit card commercials that urge viewers to ‘‘bring along your gold card’’ to various hot spots.
Accompanying the new ads was a packaging overhaul. The Sprite ‘‘dimple bottle’’ was designed to differentiate the brand from other beverage choices, particularly in the important single-serve segment. The proprietary plastic packaging, featuring vertical rows of ‘‘bubbles’’ indented on the bottle wall, was reminiscent of Sprite’s familiar green glass bottles and was designed to reflect the brand’s ‘‘cool, refreshing’’ personality. Sprite launched the new packaging in grocery and convenience stores with a flier announcing, ‘‘We’re smiling so wide our dimples are showing.’’
Building a brand relevant to consumers sometimes involved more than traditional advertising tactics. Sprite endeavored to reflect its distinct, straightforward personality through a complete marketing mix in a way that was relevant to teenagers. Accordingly, a series of crosspromotions with youth-oriented enterprises was launched. Three popular NBA players—Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers, Juwan Howard of the Washington Wizards, and number-one draft pick Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs—all agreed to give away their team jerseys and basketball shoes to 150 winners of the Sprite ‘‘Own ‘Em’’ contest. In addition, six grand prize winners got to drive away in a sport utility vehicle that had actually been driven by the players. Consumers could win instantly by looking under the cap of 20-ounce and one-liter bottles of Sprite or by checking the inside packs of Sprite 12-pack and 24-pack can wraps to reveal prizes. Launched in November 1997 to coincide with the start of the NBA season, the promotion ran through the end of March 1998.
Keeping with its basketball theme, Sprite marketers also launched the Sprite Playground at NBA Jam Session, an interactive attraction offering a wide variety of basketball activities for fans to test their skills, play out-of-theordinary games, and win prizes. The activities area, which traveled to various state fairs around the United States during the summer of 1997—was surrounded by NBA photos and life-size player images. The strong connection between Sprite and professional basketball was explained by Pina Sciarra, Sprite brand manager for Coca-Cola USA, in a company press release: ‘‘Sprite is the only soft drink that embodies the lifestyle and attitude of NBA players.’’
Other national ‘‘Obey Your Thirst’’ promotions also sought to appeal to urban youth. An under-the-cap promotion teamed Sprite with apparel manufacturers Fishpaw Industries and Shabazz Brothers Urbanwear, both of whose clothing lines appealed to inner-city youths as well as markets outside the urban boundaries. In this promotion consumers had a one in six chance of winning free products, or they could win apparel from Fishpaw and Shabazz by simply twisting off the cap and reading the message imprinted under the top of 16-ounce, 20-ounce, and one-liter bottles of Sprite. The Sprite ‘‘Under the Cap ‘Obey Your Thirst’ Promotion’’ began March 1, 1997, and ran through September 30, 1997. In a promotion aimed more specifically at the African-American community, Coca-Cola USA signed on as a major advertiser and exclusive soft drink sponsor of the annual Soul Train Music Awards show on March 7, 1997, in Los Angeles’s Shrine Auditorium. Soul Train was a popular, nationally syndicated television dance and music show founded by Don Cornelius. A ‘‘Sprite Nite’’ celebrity party was held on the eve of the Soul Train Music Awards show and was televised live on Black Entertainment Television (BET). In addition to performances by rhythm-and-blues and hip-hop artists, the Sprite Image Breaker of the Year Award was presented. Coca-Cola USA aired commercials for Sprite and Coca-Cola Classic during the awards program.

Measured in sales impact, ‘‘Obey Your Thirst’’ was a successful campaign. The ‘‘Obey Your Thirst’’ message helped Sprite secure 5.8 percent of the national soft drink market in 1996, up from 5.1 percent the previous year. In 1997 Sprite’s global volume jumped by 13 percent while domestic volume increased 10 percent. Beverage industry analysts were impressed with Sprite’s ability to create sustained growth in a competitive sector. ‘‘Coke’s marketing of Sprite has been laser-like in its focus and very successful,’’ John Sicher, the editor of Beverage Digest, told a writer for Newsday.
Some advertising critics, however, found the strategy behind the ads too cynical. ‘‘If image is nothing and taste is everything,’’ asked Bob Garfield in Advertising Age magazine, ‘‘why is not one of the ads about taste? Why are none of the ads about anything intrinsic to Sprite? Why does the famous athlete send up use Grant Hill, a famous athlete?’’ The answer, according to Garfield, was because ‘‘as far as this advertising is concerned, image is not nothing. Image is everything.’’


Although the Coca-Cola Company was well known for its carbonated-soft-drink brands, by the late 1980s a different type of beverage was attracting consumers and capturing a rapidly increasing market share: isotonic beverages, or sports drinks. In 1992 Coca-Cola jumped into the sports-drink arena with the introduction of PowerAde. Despite its marketing and promotion efforts, the brand struggled to gain a foothold with consumers. Five years after its launch in 1997, PowerAde had only managed to reach a 15.1 percent market share, far behind powerhouse brand Gatorade, which had a 73 percent share. In 1999 PowerAde eked out just $77 million in sales, while Gatorade claimed $631 million. Adding to Coca-Cola’s woes was that, under pressure from its investors, in 2000 the company withdrew its $16 billion bid to acquire Gatorade and its parent Quaker Oats Company, only to see its competitor PepsiCo land the deal for $13.4 billion.
To boost Coca-Cola’s struggling PowerAde brand, in 2000 ad agency McCann-Erickson New York created a new marketing campaign that used humorous television spots to send the message that athletes drank PowerAde before, during, and after the game or competition. The campaign featured athletes at all levels, from high school kids to pros, going through pregame rituals and superstitions as they prepared for competition. Each spot included the voice-over ‘‘Whatever you do to get up for the game, stay up,’’ and the tagline ‘‘Keep playing.’’ A specific budget for the campaign was unavailable, but a report in Adweek noted that Coca-Cola’s media spending for PowerAde through November 2000 was $31.2 million. The television spots were well received by consumers and the advertising industry. One spot, ‘‘Bus Ride,’’ featuring high school basketball players on the team bus getting mentally pumped up for their looming game, earned an Adweek magazine Best Spot honor. But the campaign failed to increase PowerAde sales as planned. In 2001 Coca-Cola hired Wieden+Kennedy, a Portland, Oregon–based agency, to create a new campaign for PowerAde. The campaign had the tagline ‘‘Very real power,’’ and it featured the Atlanta Falcons football team’s quarterback Michael Vick in a series of television spots.

Since its introduction in 1886 of a sparkling beverage sold at drugstore soda fountains, Coca-Cola was best known as a producer of carbonated soft drinks. Its brands included the flagship and eponymously named Coca-Cola (Coke) as well as a list of products added to the company’s lines over the years, such as Sprite and Tab, added in the 1960s, and Mr. Pibb, added in the 1970s.
In 1967 isotonic drinks—sports beverages that were designed specifically for athletes to replace body fluids and some nutrients lost while exercising—appeared on the market with the introduction of Gatorade. The product quickly grew in popularity with elite athletes and eventually gained acceptance among health-conscious consumers who turned to Gatorade as the beverage of choice to recharge after exercising or playing sports. By 1989 some 40 different sports drinks were on the market, including PepsiCo’s Mountain Dew Sport. Sales of sports drinks increased 17 percent from 1988 to 1989, with Gatorade earning the lion’s share of the sales. Sports-drink sales hit the $500 million mark in 1990 and were growing quickly. At that time Coca-Cola introduced its own sports drink, a powder that the consumer mixed with water. The product, Max, failed to advance past test markets, but in 1992 Coca-Cola began selling PowerAde with greater success. The company supported the new product’s launch with an ad campaign that included displays, posters, and television spots. In a Time magazine article Coca-Cola touted PowerAde as ‘‘a drink made for athletes and anyone who works up a sweat.’’
Winning market share from sports-drink giant Gatorade proved difficult for Coca-Cola’s PowerAde. Sales of isotonic drinks hit $801 million in 1999, up 12.8 percent from $712 million in 1998, but PowerAde had captured just $77 million in sales in 1999, versus Gatorade’s $631 million. By 2000 Coca-Cola was reevaluating its struggling PowerAde brand and was considering acquisition of Gatorade and the brand’s parent, Quaker Oats Company. When it became known that Coca-Cola was considering a $16 billion stock offer that would involve exchanging 1.9 Coke shares for each share of Quaker Oats, investors fled Coca-Cola, sending its stock into a downward spiral. Coca-Cola executives abandoned the plan to buy Quaker Oats. Competitor PepsiCo acquired the company and its Gatorade brand in 2000 for $13.4 billion. With Gatorade under the banner of Coca-Cola’s top competitor, PepsiCo, the company redirected its energies toward revamping and promoting PowerAde.

Isotonic sports drinks first targeted serious athletes. But as the beverages became more familiar, athletes of all ages and at all skill levels were increasingly choosing them over carbonated beverages or drinks such as iced tea or plain water to recharge after a workout or competition. According to Coca-Cola, from the time of its introduction PowerAde’s target audience had always been young men in the 18- to 30-year-old demographic. A Coca-Cola spokesman said that the company’s consistent youth-focused target market was maintained with the ‘‘Keep Playing’’ marketing campaign. He added, however, that in addition to targeting PowerAde’s traditional audience, the campaign also began shifting some of the focus to younger consumers and introduced a multiethnic approach to promoting the product.

PepsiCo joined the sports-drink market in 1994 with its new beverage All Sport. Although the brand, like other sports drinks, targeted athletes of all ages and ability levels, in 1998 the All Sport brand was expanded to include Body Quencher. The new product specifically targeted kids 6 to 15 years old and was offered in kidfriendly flavors such as Fruit Punch, Cherry Slam, and Raspberry Burst. But the All Sport brand failed to attract consumers, and in 1999 its sales slipped 22.4 percent to $31.1 million, or just 3.7 percent of the sports-drink market. By 2000 PepsiCo was reevaluating its role in the sports-drink arena, and the company was considering purchasing Quaker Oats Company and its Gatorade sports-drink brand. Quaker Oats rejected the initial offering of $14 billion that PepsiCo made in November 2000, but one month later Quaker Oats accepted PepsiCo’s $13.4 billion offer that included assuming $750 million in debt. PepsiCo’s addition of Gatorade to its product mix led the Federal Trade Commission to question whether it violated antitrust regulations, so in 2001 the company sold its All Sport sports-drink brands to Monarch Beverage Company, an Atlanta, Georgia–based company with a drink lineup that included Dad’s Root Beer and Moxie, a cola-style carbonated beverage popular in America’s New England states. Gatorade, the original sports beverage, was the market leader in 1999, holding a 79 percent share of the sports-drink market with $631 million in sales. The beverage was developed in 1965 by the University of Florida to help its football players finish an entire game under the hot, humid conditions typical in Florida. The new drink was named Gatorade as a tribute to the school’s mascot, the Gators, and in 1967 an agreement was reached with Stokely-Van Camp, Inc., to produce Gatorade. At the time Stokely-Van Camp produced canned vegetables and was best known for its canned pork and beans. During the 1967 Orange Bowl the sports drink burst onto the national scene with the Gators’ victory over Georgia Tech; Georgia Tech’s coach attributed the win in part to the Florida team’s use of Gatorade during the game. Quaker Oats Company purchased Stokely-Van Camp, which included Gatorade, in 1983. Gatorade got another national boost in 1987 when Super Bowl fans watching the game saw New York Giants players pour a full cooler of Gatorade over their coach’s head in celebration. In 1991 Gatorade signed on basketball legend Michael Jordan as spokesman and launched its ‘‘Be Like Mike’’ campaign. In a twist as tart as Gatorade’s lemon-lime flavor, in the late 1980s Quaker Oats granted PepsiCo licensed manufacturing rights to Gatorade in select countries. About nine years later, in 1998, Quaker Oats sued PepsiCo for using Gatorade’s secrets to develop its own sports drink, All Sport. Quaker Oats won the lawsuit but ultimately lost the battle when PepsiCo finalized its purchase of Quaker Oats and the Gatorade brand in 2000.

Coca-Cola and ESPN/ABC entered a marketing partnership in 2000 that would give PowerAde, Coke’s sports-drink brand, an increased presence on ESPN, a cable network owned by ABC. As part of the deal, ‘‘PowerAde Break’’ segments would be included during ESPN’s popular show SportsCenter, and PowerAde was also featured during select ABC network sports programming. In addition to traditional television advertising, the deal provided an opportunity for Coke and ESPN/ABC to partner on nontraditional marketing efforts such as promoting their brands in high schools and movie theaters.

To promote Coca-Cola’s sports drink PowerAde in 2000, the agency McCann-Erickson New York created a campaign that put a humorous spin on the efforts that athletes of all levels, from high school students to professionals, took to get psyched up to play the game. The campaign, which was limited to a series of television spots, focused on the unique superstitions of each athlete and how they worked through them before each game. No specific budget was available for the campaign, themed ‘‘Keep Playing,’’ but according to information published in Adweek, Coca-Cola’s marketing budget for PowerAde through November 2000 was $31.2 million. In April a television spot titled ‘‘Bus Ride’’ aired. It showed a high school basketball team in a school bus on its way to play in a game. A screen graphic read:
‘‘Monroe H.S. basketball team 44 minutes before tipoff.’’ The kids rhythmically beat on the backs of the bus seats with their fists, and a voice-over stated: ‘‘Whatever you do to get up for the game, stay up.’’ The spot closed with the tagline ‘‘Keep Playing.’’
Subsequent television spots that aired through 2000 featured national and international athletes from a variety of sports. The spots included ‘‘Sheldon,’’ ‘‘Wrestler,’’ and ‘‘Garlic.’’ The ‘‘Sheldon’’ spot depicted Buffalo Bills football player Sheldon Jackson sitting in the team locker room. Dressed only in his underwear and his football shoulder pads, Sheldon was shown painting his fingernails purple, a pregame routine that he had begun while playing college ball to help him focus on the upcoming competition. In ‘‘Wrestler’’ South African amateur wrestler Steven Van Eden was depicted standing in front of a mirror beating on himself before a match. Part of his ritual included tossing a threatening sneer at the mirror. The spot ‘‘Garlic’’ showed Flavio Davino, one of Argentina’s top professional soccer players, rubbing garlic all over his body and inside his shin guards. This was a pregame ritual that Davino believed would ward off evil spirits. Another spot featured U.S. Olympic track star Maurice Green writing his goal race time on a piece of paper and putting it inside his running shoe. A spot that did not air on American television featured a Korean basketball team, not pounding on the backs of bus seats like the U.S. high school basketball team but chanting in front of an alter. Like the initial television spot, ‘‘Bus Ride,’’ each commercial included the screen graphic ‘‘Whatever you do to get up for the game, stay up.’’ Background music was by the 1960s garage-rock band the Monks.

Adweek advertising critic Barbara Lippert described as ‘‘amusing’’ the PowerAde television spots showing athletes preparing to play by working through their various pregame superstitions. In 2000 the television spot ‘‘Bus Ride,’’ which showed a bus full of high school basketball players on the way to a game, was named a Creative Best Spot by Adweek. At the end of 2000, however, despite the advertising effort by McCann-Erickson, PowerAde was still a struggling brand. In 2001 Coca-Cola introduced a new marketing campaign with the tagline ‘‘Very real power,’’ created by Portland, Oregon–based agency Wieden+Kennedy. Serving as celebrity spokesman in the television spots was the Atlanta Falcons football team’s quarterback Michael Vick.


During the early 1990s Breathe Right nasal strips, manufactured and marketed by CNS, Inc., enjoyed a meteoric rise in sales. This success was largely attributed to the influence of certain prominent athletes, who wore the strip to enhance performance. It also succeeded to an extent as a cure for problem snorers but had difficulty breaking into the more crowded cold and allergy field. While the product gained brand recognition, it became typecast as a specialized product for star athletes. Sales peaked in the mid-1990s, as did the price of CNS stock, and the company launched several marketing efforts aimed at reaching a family audience. In particular, women were targeted because they bought most of the cold remedies in the house, and since a greater number of men than women had snoring problems, women were the ones most affected by snoring and more motivated to seek a product to curb the problem. In an attempt to appeal to married problem snorers, generally 50 years and older, CNS in 2004 introduced its ‘‘Back in the Sack’’ campaign, developed by ad agency Olson & Company. The strategy was to convince couples that Breathe Right nasal strips could ease the snoring that hurt so many relationships.
With a budget of less than $1 million, ‘‘Back in the Sack’’ was in essence a direct-response campaign. The goal was to convince consumers to request a six-night sample pack of nasal strips either by calling a toll-free telephone number or by registering at a dedicated website. CNS felt confident that if people tried the product they would become customers. The TV spots ran late at night or early in the morning, the times when the problem of snoring was most on the minds of consumers. Morning radio personalities who tried the strips to alleviate their own snoring and offered their own testimonials played a major role in the campaign, as did a print ad that ran in a Sunday newspaper coupon insert. The website also provided educational information and the chance to send a humorous Snore-O-Gram E-mail message to loved ones, urging them to give Breathe Right a chance to address their snoring problem. Despite its limited budget the ‘‘Back in the Sack’’ campaign far exceeded its goals. The response rate to the sampling effort was five times the target, while sales increased at more than twice the anticipated rate. The campaign also won a prestigious EFFIE award in 2005 and continued to drive sampling and sales for CNS.

After receiving Food and Drug Administration approval in late 1993, the Breathe Right adhesive nasal strip, used to keep nasal passages open, found a ready market not with chronic snorers but with athletes. The company that produced the product, CNS, Inc., mailed samples to National Football League trainers, people who were more likely than most to understand the biology behind the strips. The Philadelphia Eagles were the first to give the product a try, applying it to the nose of running back Herschel Walker, who at the time was suffering from a cold, before he rushed for 269 yards and scored a pair of touchdowns. Star San Francisco 49ers’ wide receiver Jerry Rice then wore the strip for a Monday Night Football game, generating national attention for the Breathe Right brand and jump-starting its marketing campaign. A wide assortment of athletes used the product, many of them providing unpaid endorsements.
Sales exploded for Breathe Right, peaking around $65 million in 1996 before beginning to slip. ‘‘The problem,’’ according to Monte Hanson, writing for Finance and Commerce Daily Newspaper, ‘‘was that the strips marketed as a product worn by professional athletes to enhance performance and by men who had snoring problems had limited consumer appeal.’’ A new president, former Pillsbury executive Marti Morfitt, was hired in March 1998 as the price of CNS stock began to plummet. He began an effort to break out Breathe Right beyond its athletic typecasting and position it as a product for the entire family, able to help people suffering from nasal congestion caused by colds or allergies. A product containing Vicks mentholated vapors as well as decorated nasal strips for kids were introduced. The 1999 ‘‘Breathe Right. All Night’’ campaign promoted the product as a way to relieve nighttime nasal congestion. One of the TV spots showed a woman using the strip to ease nasal congestion. The subsequent ‘‘On the Nose’’ campaign also attempted to target women, a market that CNS believed was untapped because it viewed Breathe Right as a product for athletes or men with snoring problems. Women were important because they were often the ones who bought the product for spouses with snoring problems and were generally the family member responsible for buying cold remedies. A major goal of the ‘‘On the Nose’’ campaign was to urge women to see Breathe Right as a product for themselves. The ‘‘On the Nose’’ campaign, launched in January 2000, succeeded in raising consumer awareness and increased sales and even won a prestigious EFFIE award for CNS and its advertising agency, Campbell Mithun, but it did little to convince women to overcome their reluctance to wear an adhesive strip over their noses. Nevertheless CNS learned over the years that if it could persuade people to try the product, there was a good chance they would buy it. According to a 2003 study, people who tried the strip were seven times more likely to purchase it. The goal of the ‘‘Back in the Sack’’ campaign, developed by Olson & Company and launched in the summer of 2004 in a number of test markets, was to get as many nasal strips on the noses of potential customers as possible.

The ‘‘Back in the Sack’’ campaign targeted married snorers, which already accounted for the bulk of Breathe Right sales, but because the budget was less than $1 million, the company could not effectively reach a wider family market. It was also a vast market, given that studies indicated more than half of U.S. households had a problem snorer. Typically, problem snorers were men who were not affected by their snoring and, thus, lacked the motivation to try Breathe Right strips. Their wives, however, were highly motivated, eager to find a product to alleviate their husbands’ snoring, to get some sleep, and, in many cases, to save their relationships. Moreover problem snoring grew worse with age, providing older women with more motivation than younger women to take action. The campaign, as a result, targeted adults 50 years and older.

As a product to relieve congestion, Breathe Right faced competition from well-established brands—the likes of Vicks, Claritin, and Benadryl—that had spent hundreds of millions of dollars to establish themselves in the marketplace. But they could not claim to eliminate or even alleviate snoring. It was this opening that CNS wanted to exploit, and once consumers had gained relief from snoring there was a good chance they would try Breathe Right for congestion. Competition in the snoring aid category was varied but limited. There were some 300 patented devices intended to solve problem snoring, as well as such homemade nostrums as sewing a sock with a tennis ball inside it to the pajama back to force the snorer to sleep on his side (because snoring grew worse from sleeping on the back). On the market consumers could find slumber sleep masks, contour pillows, an assortment of sprays and pills, as well as ‘‘Chin-Up’’ strips, which kept the mouth closed and forced a user to breathe through his nose. There were also competing nasal strips, the best known being Clear Passage, produced by giant pharmaceutical Schering-Plough. Additionally drugstore chains offered private-label nasal strips, but Breathe Right was the dominant brand in the category.

Since the introduction of Breathe Right a decade earlier, CNS had received hundreds of letters from satisfied customers offering their testimonials. A large portion of them said that Breathe Right not only alleviated a snoring problem but perhaps saved a relationship. Taking this cue, the marketers decided to focus on the emotional benefit of using Breathe Right to curb snoring: rekindling relationships and—in the language of the campaign—getting couples ‘‘back in the sack.’’
The campaign was a multifaceted, integrated effort to attract, and in some cases reattract, problem snorers. Media elements of the campaign included television, radio, newspaper, direct mail, public relations, and interactive/ online. In order to make the message resonate, especially important given the limited budget, the direct-response television spots were aired at times when the problem of snoring was most on the minds of people affected by it: overnight and early in the morning. One spot showed a tattered half of a picture of a man on a bed pillow in the shadows of the night, his snoring heard in the background. The other half of the picture, that of his wife, was shown on the other pillow, with the sound of a ticking click representing her sleeplessness. After the voice-over made the case for Breathe Right strips, able to alleviate snoring in six nights, the halves of the picture were seen reunited. The direct response of the ad came at the close with a toll-free number people could call to receive a free six-night sample pack of the product. The pack itself served an educational purpose: consumers learned that the body needed to retrain itself in order to breathe differently and to stop snoring. Moreover the consumers were developing a nightly habit of applying the strip, a habit that would carry over once they experienced results and began to purchase the product. Radio also proved effective in convincing people to request a product sample. Popular radio station morning ‘‘drive’’ personalities who themselves suffered from snoring were located. They were then given Breathe Right strips to use and, once they had success with the product, were enthusiastic in their praise of Breathe Right the next morning. The last major element in the campaign was the Sunday newspaper coupon inserts, which a large number of the target audience scoured for bargains before doing their grocery shopping. CNS ran a four-color front page ad on the SmartSource coupon inserts. All told, the campaign spent less than $500,000 on media.
The campaign’s website,, also played a major role. Not only could consumers sign up online for the sample pack, but the site also provided interactive educational material that showed how the strips worked. Many of the testimonials CNS had received from couples were posted online, lending credibility to the campaign’s theme of Breathe Right saving relationships. The website also included whimsical Snore-O-Grams, E-mail messages that could be sent to loved ones to encourage them to do something about their snoring.

The Breathe Right nasal strip was invented by Bruce Johnson, a man who suffered from allergies as well as a deviated septum. In his attempts to keep his nasal passages open, he resorted to such desperate measures as putting straws up his nose and even using paper clips to keep his nostrils open. His inspiration for Breathe Rights came one day when he drove past an archway at the University of Minnesota and he realized that he could pull open his nasal passages from the outside rather than from within. This insight led to his creation of an adhesive strip that could be applied over the nose.

One of the objectives of the ‘‘Back in the Sack’’ campaign was to double the response rate of prior sampling efforts, from 0.9 to 1.8 percent. A further goal was to increase sales by more than 8 percent over the same time period of the previous year. On both counts the campaign more than exceeded the target. The response rate to the sample offer was 9.12 percent, a 1,103 percent increase over the historic average and far beyond the 1.8 percent goal. This success then had an impact on sales, which grew 17 percent, a rate increase that more than doubled the campaign’s goal. What started out as a trial effort was rolled out nationwide in 2005, and investors soon took note of the campaign’s success. They bid up the price of CNS stock, which topped the $25 mark for the first time since the heady days of 1996. Then the stock would dip below the $5 mark within two years. This time, however, CNS had record revenues in fiscal 2005 to support the stock’s price.
The ‘‘Back in the Sack’’ campaign was also recognized by the advertising industry. In 2005 it won the Gold in the Health Aids/Over-the-Counter Products category of the EFFIE Awards, presented annually by the New York American Marketing Association to honor outstanding advertising campaigns.

Monday, May 19, 2008


Clairol, Inc.’s Herbal Essence was a top-ranked shampoo in the 1970s. Although it retained a following in California, by the 1990s it had dropped in popularity elsewhere. In 1994 Clairol introduced a new Herbal Essences brand that offered a variety of shampoos and conditioners made from organic materials. Other Herbal Essences hair-care products followed. Instead of imitating the marketing strategy of other shampoo brands, Clairol, a subsidiary of Bristol-Myers Squibb Company, wanted to advertise the sensual experience of washing hair, not how its shampoo made hair shiny or silky. Hoping to increase sales and make the Herbal Essences brand stand out against the noise of competing advertisers, Clairol introduced a campaign titled ‘‘Totally Organic.’’ The print, television, and radio campaign, created by the ad agency Wells Rich Greene BDDP in New York, was released in 1994. Adweek estimated its budget to be between $15 million and $20 million. The natural makeup of the new shampoos was a strong selling point, but it was advertisements using sexual humor that helped Herbal Essences gain recognition over other environmentally sound competitors. Commercials featured women who simulated sexual ecstasy while shampooing their hair, usually in a public setting such as a crowded supermarket. The campaign shifted its strategy in 2000, when pop singer Britney Spears recorded a song for Herbal Essences titled ‘‘I’ve Got the Urge to Herbal’’ and posed for print ads. Her contribution lowered the campaign’s female target age range from 18 to 49 down to 16 to 49. Despite the brand’s ownership changing hands and the campaign being transferred to a second ad agency, ‘‘Totally Organic’’ continued until 2004. While using sex in advertising was a controversial, or in some views anachronistic, approach, incorporating humor made the Herbal Essences ads contemporary and effective. The ‘‘Totally Organic’’ campaign was considered a solid success by Clairol executives, and it inspired a relaunch of another Clairol standard, Nice ‘n Easy hair color. ‘‘Totally Organic’’ helped the brand triple its market share between 1994 and 1999—making Herbal Essences the second-largest shampoo brand in America.

In 1994 Clairol, a division of Bristol-Myers Squibb, introduced Herbal Essences, a collection of four shampoos and four conditioners sold in 12-ounce bottles for $3.29. Marketing began in 1995 with approximately $20 million in print and television advertising. Styling products—gels, mousses, and spritzes—and body-wash products were added to the line in 1996, and in 1997 Herbal Essences products were introduced to the United Kingdom and other markets.
The new product traded on the name recognition of a previous Clairol product, Herbal Essence, which was ranked the number three shampoo in the early 1970s, with an 8 percent market share. That share had fallen to 0.1 percent by the 1990s, however. Herbal Essence was not a natural product, while the new Herbal Essences products were made almost exclusively of herbs, botanicals, and other plant ingredients derived from renewable resources. The formulas were biodegradable and not tested on animals, and the packaging material was made out of recyclable plastic.
Clairol said that the old Herbal Essence would be continued because it retained favor with Hispanic consumers. To avoid confusion between the two products, however, it would be merchandised separately from the new Herbal Essences line.

An association with nature was part of the original Herbal Essence shampoo’s appeal, but the product’s green credentials were more image than fact. ‘‘Consumer research has shown us that people remember Herbal Essence as a natural product, even though it really wasn’t,’’ said Jeanne Matson, Clairol’s marketing director for hair care. The new Herbal Essences products, said to be 99 percent natural, were created and marketed with environmentally informed consumers in mind. ‘‘With companies like the Body Shop and Aveda introducing natural hair products in the specialty arena, it seemed like the perfect time to revive Herbal Essence and make it truly natural and environmentally sound,’’ Matson said. A trend toward upgrading shampoos for themassmarket had resulted in a new niche. This new market was for hair-care products that offered salon-quality treatment—such as alpha hydroxy acid—or natural ingredients—such as those used in specialty shampoos from companies like the Body Shop or Aveda—at less than salon or specialty prices. At $3.29 for 12 ounces, a bottle of Herbal Essences shampoo was more expensive than the old Herbal Essence, which continued to be merchandised at $2.99 for a 14.5-ounce bottle, but it was still inexpensive. The new Herbal Essences was first aimed at ‘‘women aged 18 to 49 who are interested in natural products and do not mind paying premium prices in order be environmentally sound,’’ said Jane Owen, senior product manager. This demographic group apparently included fans of television shows like Seinfeld, programs noted not for their environmental stance but for pushing the envelope in questions of taste. A controversial but effective marketing strategy used by Clairol for its new Herbal Essences products sidestepped the environmental question altogether and instead focused on the sensual act of shampooing by playing the word ‘‘organic’’ off ‘‘orgasmic.’’ After adding print and radio spots featuring 18-year-old singer Britney Spears in 2000, the campaign’s target expanded to include women between the ages of 16 to 49.

Clairol was the number one hair-products company in the United States. Procter & Gamble, however, dominated the shampoo market in 1997, with its leading product, Pantene. Nonetheless, Clairol’s Herbal Essences was ‘‘making plenty of noise,’’ as characterized by market reports. The company’s shampoo sales rose 89.3 percent, to $52.8 million, for the year ending August 25, 1996, and conditioner sales were up 94 percent, to $31.8 million. The Body Shop and Aveda were the two competitors most commonly cited by the creators of Herbal Essences. These companies sold environmentally sound products at above-average but not exorbitant prices, and the Body Shop especially appealed to the global consciousness of consumers.

Clairol advertised its reformulated Nice ‘n Easy hair coloring during the final episode of the sitcom Seinfeld, on May 14, 1998. The spots starred comedian Kristen Johnston of the sitcom 3rd Rock from the Sun. Seinfeld star Julia Louis-Dreyfus had been a former spokeswoman for Nice ‘n Easy.

Competition, even within specific categories, was becoming increasingly intense in television advertising in the 1990s. Stock products had been done to death and without much originality, according to Judith Werme, group creative director at ad agency DDB Needham Chicago. ‘‘A blitzed-out population has become increasingly blase´,’’ said Mark Crispin Miller, professor of media studies at New York University. ‘‘So there’s an accelerating desperation to make an impression, to stand out.’’ Print copy for Clairol’s Herbal Essences shampoos and conditioners stated that they contained a combination of natural organic herbs, botanicals, and springwater, giving users ‘‘a totally organic experience.’’ Television commercials, however, turned this straightforward environmental description into a whole different story. A TV spot developed by Wells Rich Greene BDDP, New York, showed a woman ‘‘really, really enjoying her shampoo,’’ wrote Tom Soter for Shoot magazine. ‘‘In the piece, a woman shampooing her hair in the shower murmurs, ‘Feels so good,’ then progresses to ‘yes, yes, yes,’ until the spot ends with an orgasmic cry. The punchline is lifted straight out of the famous deli orgasm scene in When Harry Met Sally.’’ A woman watching the commercial on television at home then said, ‘‘I want to get the shampoo she’s using.’’ Another version showed a woman who, to the puzzlement of the passengers overhearing her, moaned with pleasure as she shampooed with Clairol Herbal Essences in the restroom of an airplane.
The $15 million to $20 million campaign was an example of ‘‘shock advertising,’’ which Bob Garfield, critic for Advertising Age, described as ‘‘calculatingly taking license to offend and inflame.’’ But Linda Kaplan Thaler, who developed the Herbal Essences advertisements for Wells Rich Greene BDDP—and who soon after took the entire Clairol account to her new company, Kaplan Thaler Group—described the Herbal Essences ‘‘Totally Organic’’ campaign as based on ‘‘the theory of disruption.’’ ‘‘If the convention in the shampoo category is to show the benefit of making hair shiny and healthy, we would go against that. Instead of finding some molecule of evidence that our product made hair slightly shinier, we thought we’d get more bang for the buck by doing something that everyone else isn’t doing, but is equally as inviting. We said, ‘Why not concentrate on the actual experience of washing hair rather than the end benefit? When you’re cleaning yourself, it’s a cathartic experience—you’re naked, it’s deeply sensual.’’ The commercials were developed within a climate of permissiveness in television in 1994, manifested in shows such as Seinfeld, Friends, and NYPD Blue as well as on MTV. ‘‘There is such an onslaught of wild, weird and wacky stuff on MTV,’’ explained DDB Needham’s Werme, ‘‘that in advertising, there’s almost nothing you can’t do.’’ But programs such as Seinfeld and Friends, while pushing the boundaries for acceptable topics and language, also operated in a climate of sensitivity to women’s rights and, perhaps, with ennui toward a sexsaturated medium. ‘‘It’s not acceptable to have T&A in beer advertising anymore,’’ commented Jeff Funicular, creative director at ad agency Leo Burnett, Toronto. ‘‘It’s not acceptable to have women draped over the hood of a car.’’ If sex was going to sell or even be noticed, it had to be self-deprecating and witty. ‘‘We decided a comedic experience would work best,’’ said Kaplan Thaler about the Herbal Essences advertisements. Other television spots that featured racy material with a high quotient of humor included those for Fruit of the Loom underwear, Westin Hotels, Coca-Cola, Mercedes-Benz, and the Bermuda Department of Tourism. ‘‘Television permissibility was clearly enjoying a renaissance,’’ wrote Soter in Shoot, but humor was a key ingredient for success.
In late 1997 another disruption spot was created for Clairol by Kaplan Thaler to launch a new hair-care line called Daily Defense. The spot showed a fleet of stylists at a commercial shoot grooming the opulent blond tresses of a model. The scene was interrupted with images of a no-nonsense brunette explaining the benefits of Daily Defense, said to provide protection from damaging environmental effects, including pollution, solar radiation, and chlorine from swimming pools. ‘‘We’re poking fun at what goes on behind the scenes at many [shampoo] commercials,’’ said Kaplan Thaler. Research showed that many women were tired of seeing ‘‘unrealistic’’ females in ads, she added. A simple scientific look was planned for the product’s packaging. ‘‘This is about a product that is high-tech,’’ said Bill Decker, president of Clairol’s retail division. ‘‘It is not a natural or sensory story.’’ In 1999 the ad agency Kaplan Thaler Group, New York, was awarded the Herbal Essences account. The allfemale agency, helmed by the campaign’s creator, Linda Kaplan Thaler, released new television spots and print ads with the expanded $30 million Herbal Essences ad budget. One courtroom-themed spot featured the sex therapist Dr. Ruth promoting the new Herbal Essences body wash while a female lawyer delved into a sensuous hair-washing daydream. Handsome men in the courtroom began singing, ‘‘She’s got the urge to Herbal.’’ Pop star Britney Spears recorded her own 60-second version of ‘‘She’s Got the Urge to Herbal’’ for a 2000 radio spot. Her song was also used for a preconcert video presentation during Spears’s 50-city summer concert tour, which was sponsored by Clairol. In addition Spears posed for Herbal Essences print ads, which appeared in youth-oriented magazines such as Teen People, Seventeen, and YM. Spears lowered the campaign’s target age to girls as young as 16.
The Procter & Gamble Company purchased Clairol from Bristol-Myers Squibb in 2001 and renamed the company P&G-Clairol, Inc. In March 2001 members of the boy band 98 Degrees appeared in provocative print ads and television spots for Herbal Essences. In addition Herbal Essences sponsored the band’s 2001 spring concert tour. In 2003 the campaign featured Sex and the City star Kim Cattrall, who provided spots with voice-overs. The blonde bombshell was shown moaning in a shower while shampooing her hair in one commercial—drawing a backlash from the watchdog group the American Family Association. In 2004 Herbal Essences put its 10-year-old ‘‘Totally Organic’’ campaign on hiatus in America, according to Advertising Age, in favor of a campaign that was less sexually charged.

Clairol, Inc., based in Stamford, Connecticut, spruced up its Employee Commuter Program to reflect the images used to market environmentally friendly products such as Herbal Essences. The Clairol shuttle bus, which transported employees to and from the Stamford train station, was decorated with depictions of fresh herbs and flowers so as to resemble the design of the new shampoo bottles. The Clairol Employee Commuter Program provided the train-station shuttle, low-cost vanpooling, and emergency rides home for commuters who needed them. In 1995 Clairol won the Governor’s Circle Transportation Award, presented annually to recognize individual and corporate contributions to alternative transportation that helped to improve Connecticut’s air quality and reduce congestion on its highways.

A USA Today Ad Track survey of 41 commercials in 1997 showed that only 8 percent of those questioned responded that they liked the Herbal Essences ads ‘‘a lot.’’ A mere 14 percent rated the ads ‘‘very effective.’’ Nonetheless, Clairol was pleased with the campaign. ‘‘This has been Clairol’s most successful product launch in the history of the company,’’ said Bill Susetka, senior vice president and general manager of Clairol U.S. ‘‘It has greatly exceeded our initial expectations.’’ In 1997 Clairol reported a 36 percent increase in sales, which was attributed to its Herbal Essences line. That year the line had a sales increase of 168 percent, to $351 million. Herbal Essences products were introduced or expanded in more than 40 countries. Clairol became a market leader in Peru and Puerto Rico in 1997, and in Asia Clairol’s Herbal Essences product line ‘‘put it on the map,’’ according to Steve Sadove, president of worldwide Beauty Care & Nutritional at Bristol-Myers Squibb (then the parent company of Clairol). ‘‘It’s the most successful thing we’ve done at Clairol,’’ Sadove added. ‘‘We believe Herbal Essences has the potential to be a mega brand spanning many different product categories.’’
During the first five years of ‘‘Totally Organic’’ Herbal Essences tripled its market share and eventually became the second-largest shampoo brand, behind Pantene. In 2003 its consumer-awareness scores were higher than that of any other shampoo, according to the newspaper the Hamilton Spectator. By 2004 some ad analysts had begun criticizing the campaign for its lack of fresh material. Such accusations were later validated by Herbal Essences’ bottom line. In the campaign’s final full year in the United States, the brand lost 1.9 market-share points in shampoo and 1.1 market-share points for conditioner.