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Posted on 12.27.2011

Coca-Cola Sheds Light on Changing Brand Images

In case you missed the news, Coca-Cola recently changed their iconic red can to a white can for the first time in 125 years. The white can was released in late October in order to raise awareness of the threatened polar bear species. The campaign was supposed to run through February, but was quickly pulled after customers aggressively demonstrated their disapproval through social media websites such as YouTube and Twitter and accused Coke of changing the taste as well as the can. Customers also complained that the white cans with silver polar bears looked mistakenly similar to the traditional Diet Coke cans, causing them to purchase the wrong product. Coca-Cola assured their customers on national television that they did not change the formula of their product. Scott Williamson, a spokesperson for Coke, also told the Wall Street Journal that they simply wanted a “disruptive” marketing campaign to raise awareness of threatened polar bears. Coca-Cola appears to have appropriately handled what could have been a PR glitch by pulling the white cans off of the shelves and replacing them with the traditional red, publicly assuring consumers they did not change the taste, and publicly explaining why they changed the cans in the first place. But there are a few lessons you can learn from Coca-Cola’s mishap. 1. Consumers generally do not like change. They want to identify with a brand’s image and logo. Therefore, as the old saying goes, don’t fix what isn’t broken. It may have been honorable of Coca-Cola to try to raise awareness of polar bears, but their previous failures with changing brand images should have warned them of the risk they were taking. 2. If your company decides to change its brand name, logo or image, explain the changes publicly, clearly and thoroughly. Consumers will be more likely to identify with the new image if they understand why you are making changes. 3. Have a crisis plan ready like Coke did in case things do go awry. 4. Keep in mind that consumers are using social media to voice their opinions more than ever before. While you shouldn’t fear what your customers are saying online, you should be aware of what they are saying by monitoring social media. Responding to both positive and negative feedback accordingly will benefit your company. What do you think about Coca-Cola’s can change? Have you or your company changed their brands or brand images? How did it go?  

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