What a successful alcohlic beverage launch by Coca-Cola could look like

Coca-Cola will be launching its first alcoholic beverage in Japan. It will come in the form of "chu-hi," a canned alcopop. According to Jorge Garduno, president of the company's Japanese division, the move "makes sense" given the increasing demand for such drinks.

The alcohol market is new territory for Coca-Cola, so it will likely have to cross a few barriers. But the move is potentially a clever one. Talking with Real Business, Mark Stringer, managing director at AHOY, pointed out that Coca-Cola is already seen as a prime mixer with alcoholic drinks, so the market should welcome its twist on the alcopop.

“However, the business must be ready to brace itself for any bad sentiment it could be subject to as a result of the announcement – something it should be well versed in having dealt with the demonisation of sugary drinks,” Stringer said. “The super-brand will have done its research into the monetary value of making this move, set against the risk, and clearly thinks it’s worth it; it just needs to be aware of any potential kickbacks.

“Recent years have seen the business invest in water, tea and coffee – with mixed success – to plug the sales gap of its flagship product caused by health conscious consumers buying fewer sugary drinks.”

It’s likely, then, that the business is hoping to broaden its portfolio. This may see it take a different marketing approach. Stringer suggested all traces of the globally-recognised, core branding might be removed from the new product.

“If this is the case, it’s likely that most consumers won’t even know the drink is made by the business anyway,” he said. “The business should use its existing strong contacts to leverage success, but make its branding and marketing different enough so as not to impact its core product negatively.”

Sean Masters, creative director and partner of Masters Allen, echoes Stringer’s sentiments. However the launch is tackled, a very sensitive strategy will need to be created first.

“Coca-Cola is a household name and has centred its brand and marketing history almost exclusively on family values,” Masters explained. “The chu-hi market is already well established in Japan, so to have the global might of Coca-Cola providing something new will be an intriguing opportunity for customers to try something different.

“But I think the biggest concern will be how the potential dilution of the ‘one brand’ strategy that is still going strong will play out. It will also be interesting to see how this new product will impact them as a sub-brand/product, whilst still fitting within the unified brand experience.”

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Shané Schutte

Shané Schutte is a senior reporter at Real Business, with a particular specialism in employment and business law, human resources, information technology and sales/marketing.

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