Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Coke gets geyser of community-based publicity, but doesn't want it

Chris at Shotgun Marketing has the latest example of a company not liking the direction that the community is going with their product, so they try to LEAD the community away from their chosen path.

Hundreds of videos are popping up all over the internet of an interesting experiment involving Diet Coke. Apparently, when you drop a Mentos into a bottle of Diet Coke, the chemical reaction results in a geyser shooting up to 20-feet in the air. For months people have been shooting videos of this experiment, with the most famous being at eepybird.com. As of last Friday, this video had been viewed over 800,000 times.

The interesting part of this story is the reaction that Mentos and Coke have had to their products being featured in these community-produced videos. Mentos' reaction? "We are tickled pink by it," says Pete Healy, vice president of marketing for the company's U.S. division.

As for Coke? "It's an entertaining phenomenon," said Coke spokeswoman Susan McDermott. "We would hope people want to drink [Diet Coke] more than try experiments with it.". She adds that the "craziness with Mentos ... doesn't fit with the brand personality" of Diet Coke.

Let me repost what I said in Part 2 of my 'Marketing With Your Community' series:
I prefer to think that our goal as marketers is to clear a path for the consumer. The consumer will eventually reach their destination with or without us, but the value we bring to the equation is to help the consumer reach their destination as effectively as possible. We can't clear a path if the consumer is leading us. And if we get too far ahead of the consumer, we lose the ability to accurately anticipate their path.

So we walk with the consumer. If the consumer leads, our ability to clear their path is diminished, which doesn't serve the best interest of the consumer. If the marketer leads, then our ability to understand the consumer is diminished, which means our ability to understand which path they will take is lessened. And that's not in their best interest either. It also doesn't help us.

Mentos is walking WITH their community, Coke is trying to lead them. Mentos found out about how the community was enjoying their product, and now they are considering offering a marketing deal to the men responsible for the most elaborate, and popular video. The company values the online buzz for Mentos at 'Over 10 million'.

On the flipside, Coke is telling their community to stop playing (enjoying) with Diet Coke, and start drinking it.

Mentos is clearing a path for their community, Coke is trying to lead their's.

Guess which company will be the winner here?


J.D. said...

I don't know what Coke is worried about. Pretty much if Coke's CEO got up on the top of the Empire State Building and started throwing babies off of it left and right, people would still drink Coke, because at this point in our history, that's just what we do.

I mean, c'mon, we live in the South were everything is a Coke, no matter if it's Pepsi, RC, or orange drink. If it fizzes, it's either Alka-Seltzer or Coke. With such a deeply ingrained name recognition, why would Coke even care if people were re-creating Old Faithful with the Mentos people?

Tricia said...

First of all, that video is amazing so I don't know anyone can be anything but "tickled pink" by it. But, if you recall, consumers previously paired coke and pop rocks in an experiment (and at that time they rumored that it would result in death) - this is just another soda-candy pairing that is par for the course in the coke family. Hey, Diet Coke should have been happy that this time the rumors were playful and not deadly!

Anonymous said...

Hey JD, i'm not sure I share your unshakable faith in Coke, not sure if you know this but fizzy soft drinks is, ironcally enough, rather flat.

"Atlanta-based Coke (Research), the world's largest soft drinks maker, saw its domestic market share drop by 0.9 percent to 43.1 percent last year."


Sure, they'll be in business a lot longer, but they are still need to connect with customers in more meaningful ways than broadcasting messages.

To their credit they did a great job with thie world cup blog:

John Dumbrille said...

I dont know. I think I agree with your stated implied aesthetic, but I bleieve there is a place for mind control on the web, just as there is a willing market. And companies like Coke, whose products are primarily perpetuated by advertising rather than word of mouth all all over that. They'll unuveil their "gusher" ad when they want to...