Monday, December 18, 2006

Vanilla Coke : Wakaw

Brand :Vanilla Coke
Company: Coca Cola
Agency: McCann Erickson

Brand Count : 178

Vanilla Coke was touted as the greatest innovation since Diet Coke in 1983. It also has the distinction of the greatest flops after the New Coke. Vanilla Coke came with a bang in the Indian market in April 2004. It went without much noise in 2005.

The history of this product variant dates back as early as 1950's. The mass marketing of this variant began in 2002.The brand went global in 2004.
2004 saw the unusual scream " Wakaw" played across mass media. We all looked up in awe : a brand new variant from Coca Cola : Vanilla Coke. The brand was targeted at the metro youth was different. It was different in taste, promotion, package, price etc.
Vanilla Coke was promoted in retro style. The brand had Vivek Oberoi , the then bollywood flame endorsing the brand in an unusual style. Vivek sported the retro look with typical combination of Elvis style + Shammi Kapoor style in an Old Lamby Scooter screaming Wakaw.

The ads were surely clutter breaking and backed by 360 degree branding efforts that ensured good publicity. The creative done by the famed Prasoon Joshi was discussed in all media and that ensured truck loads of free publicity. The brand also got into viral marketing. The campaign along with Contenst2win asked the customers to SMS Wakaw to 8558 inorder to win goodies. According to media reports, the campaign resulted in 440,000 SMS in just 4 weeks creating a record of sorts.

According to report, the media brief given to the agency was to create a clutter breaking campaign targeted at youth. The campaign should create a dhamaka in the market. And rightly so all the client requirements was achieved with in a short span of time.

But how come a product with such a good start failed so easily. With in one year, the brand has been taken out from most of the Indian states. The brand is said to be available in Gujarat,Kolkatta and Delhi.
As a marketing person, I am also perplexed. Frankly I liked the ad the feel and wanted to try it out. But soon the product was not at all available. The failure of this product line extension may have delighted Alries and Trout .

I am assuming that the following factors may have caused the failure of this brand.

a. The product may have been bad. The TG may not have liked the taste. Although Coke has test marketed this product, there is always a chance that the customers may have disliked the taste.
b.The campaign was not targeted at the right segment. This campaign had its fair share of critics also. I liked the campaign because I have seen the old stars and the lamby etc and could easily relate the old characters and the concept. But for a twenty year old, he may not relate or understand the concept. The brand may have lost out in that respect.
c. The brand was priced at a premium over the ordinary coke. This may have discouraged the TG from checking out the brand. Together with the retro campaign not clicking with the intended audience may have given a double whammy for the brand.
d. Indian SD industry is a duopoly. Pepsi and Coke rule the roast and there are brand loyal on both sides. The new variant will be tested first by the Coke loyal and not the Pepsi loyal. Hence like most of the Product line extensions, the variant will be pitted against the mother brand. Hence the customers may have compared the new variant with the classic coke and not as a new drink. And surely the classic coke won .
These are all assumptions because I am still confused.
The failure of Vanilla Coke is a classic case that proves that Marketing is not a perfect science. There are no formula or theory that can make a brand successful. To Quote Kotler " Marketing is easy to teach and understand but difficult to practice".


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  1. Angela8:01 AM


    One factor you sorely missed is the fact that in India, vanilla is not a spice. They do not have vanilla beans, because the plant is incompatible with their climate and soil. If you were to buy ice cream in India, they would have the flavors mango, cherry, etc, but no vanilla. So, as you can imagine when Coca-Cola introduced this beverage it was hugely unpopular because people either did not know what vanilla was and did not want to try it, or they did not know what it was, tried it, and did not like it. Hence, the complete failure of vanilla coke in India.

    1. Just to point out, Indian market has been been exposed to vanilla flavour in ice cream formats in the years prior to Vanilla Coke's launch. Hence, I disagree with this being a possible reason for failure.

  2. prob. one of the reason is emotionally attached wid the classic coke rather than new flavor...even targeted group liked it but emotion which original coke is giving cannot be compared by the new variant.....

  3. Anonymous4:30 PM

    Dear Angela, vanilla ice-creams are easily available in India. Indians do know what vanilla is even though it may not be present as a spice. The reason for the failure of the product is not that simple.

  4. Anonymous12:17 AM

    dear sir,
    i feel the main reason behind the failure of vanilla coke was that it was a brand line extension, that just couldnt work. coke to the consumer means the strong,dark colored drink..and vanilla on the other hand means sweet,icecream and there is a natural conflict in the minds of the consumer.i feel the product could have succeeded,had it been launched as a new and seperate brand from coca cola (like fanta,maaza etc)
    brand extensions have almost always been a failure,and this is because,for a consumer- brand is not just a means a lot more, it has a positioning,an image..and anything that doesnt go with the image will definitely be rejected by the consumer.
    it is disappointing to note that you have not looked into the concept of brand extension in this article,coz i feel that is the main reason behind the failure of vanilla coke.

  5. shashank10:51 AM

    The colas have a unique perception associated with it. if you add any mild flavor to the cola the product is bound to fizzle out. eg. you would not like a mango cola or a orange cola. but you do like a maaza or a fanta. had vanilla coke been launched without the coke tag, it might have worked better.
    another reason for the failure, as rightly pointed out by the author, could be its pricing. Indians are acquainted with vanilla mostly through ice-creams. and though many love vanilla, it is considered the basic, simplest flavor (might be cos of its white color and its price). thus its difficult to shell out a premium for anything thats vanilla flavor.


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