A major Diet Coke rebrand is underway. Coca-Cola has forgone the traditional can appearance for a more sleek design with simple branding and vibrant colors to match up with their new exotic and botanical flavors. Sound familiar? That's because that description also matches the imagery of one of their fast-growing rivals: LaCroix.
Photo courtesy of the Coca-Cola Company
With a promise that their quality (and formula) is not changing, Diet Coke is introducing four new flavors into the fold: "Feisty Cherry," "Blood Orange," "Ginger Lime," and "Twisted Mango." These are clearly flavors along the same lines as those of LaCroix, who dominates the sparkling water shelves with tropical and effervescent flavors like Pamplemousse (grapefruit) and Tangerine.
It's obvious that this new Diet Coke rebrand is an attempt to challenge LaCroix in the zero-calorie, flavored beverage arena. However, there's a glaring weakness in this strategy that the Diet Coke team somehow missed: people don't just like LaCroix because it's zero calories alone.
Sure, the fact that we're not getting calories for sugar makes this new lineup a nice alternative to Cherry Coke or some of Coca-Cola's other saccharine drinks. It probably also helps the soda giant avoid more losses to the increasingly popular soda taxes happening around the world. However, the new Diet Coke still has sweeteners inside of it, like aspartame and acesulfame-K, that are going to be a turnoff to people.
Conversely, the reason the sparkling water industry has thrived is because typically, you're not gonna find sugar OR its alternatives inside of a bottle of bubbly Hint or a can of LaCroix. Consumers are turned off to the real stuff for obvious reasons, but the zero and low-cal sugar substitutes are also a negative because of just how much sweetness they exude. The sweeteners in Diet Coke, for example, are about 200 times more potent than Dixie Crystal, according to the FDA. Some claim that that makes some of the diet sodas we drink even more addictive and gets us even more hooked on sugar.
Thus, everybody's hopping off of the diet soda bandwagon and moving to LaCroix and its fellow allies in the sparkling water surge. Diet Coke's attempt to make up for those lost sales is a justified one, but because it can't fully ditch the sweetness, may not have the desired rebound the company hopes to see.
Of course, people aren't going to stop drinking Diet Coke altogether because of the new rebrand. I likely won't stop imbibing on the typical 3-4 cans it takes me to get through writing a piece. But if Coca-Cola really wants to make a dent in sparkling water's market share, they could be putting the advertising and marketing energy in brands they own that can really challenge LaCroix.
Revamped cans of Dasani Sparkling, perhaps?