Do Real Men Drink Diet Coke? When a couple of marketing managers for Coca-Cola told attorney Elizabeth Finn Johnson that they wanted to sue their Coke Zero colleagues for “taste infringement,” she was baffled. She tried to talk them out of it, but they were determined. They argued that Coca-Cola Classic should be protected from the age discrimination it would suffer with the introduction of a newer, younger soft drink that tasted exactly the same as the original. Frustrated, Finn Johnson held up the Coke can and shouted, “It’s not a person! Title VII doesn’t cover these things!”
What she didn’t know was that the marketing managers were actors. Hidden cameras had been planted around the meeting room to capture the reactions of several unsuspecting attorneys who had been asked to consider the case, including an immigration lawyer who was asked if he could get the Coke Zero marketing head deported back to
Canada. The short videos were strategically placed on Web sites such as www.youtube.com to promote Coke Zero as the hip, new alternative to Diet Coke for men. The Coca-Cola Company knows it has to be creative if it’s going to sell more soda after sales dropped two years in a row in 2005 and 2006. Morgan Stanley analyst Bill Pecoriello explains, “Consumers are becoming ever more health-conscious, and the image of regular carbonated soft drinks is deteriorating rapidly.” In an attempt to appeal to consumers concerned with nutrition, Coke introduced Diet Coke Plus in 2007, a sweeter version of Diet Coke fortified with vitamins and minerals. But what they really needed was a way to reach young male consumers, and Diet Coke Plus, marketed with the tagline “Your Best Friend Just Got Friendlier!” wasn’t going to do it.
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