Coca-Cola plays up heritage in fresh ad campaign amid sluggish British sales and impending sugar tax

On a product basis, Coca-Cola’s flagship drink noted a 0.5% slip in North and Western Europe last year

Coca-Cola is betting big on its 132-year-old recipe for a UK-wide campaign focused on the “original and authentic” taste of its flagship classic product as the brand faces both the challenge of putting the fizz back into sales and figuring out how to market smaller bottles at higher price points.

Launching on Friday (6 April), the same day the UK government intends to impose a ‘sugar tax’ on soft drinks companies, the brand’s ‘We Do’ campaign is centred around how Coca-Cola classic has kept the same recipe for 100 years (except from a 79-day recess in 1985).

Coca-Cola’s new creative will run across OOH, print media and social. It depicts the brand’s unmistakable logo adjacent to an emblem of Elvis Presley, alongside the tagline: ‘They don’t make ‘em like they used to. We do.’

The spots are intended to show that despite the changing world around it, the drink has kept the same "authentic and original taste" since its inception in 1886.

Coca-Cola introduced a global one brand strategy in 2016 to promote all of its products under the same umbrella, but appears to have flipped on the move in recent months, with the timing of its latest ads following on from an extensive American and European brand refresh of Diet Coke.

As part of the one brand strategy, Coca-Cola classic was marketed under the under the 'Taste the Feeling' strapline which honed in on the idea that drinking a Coke had the power to make everyday moments special.

The drinks giant’s renewed focus on its self-proclaimed "iconic" heritage, however, comes as it gears up for to face what Coca-Cola European Partners chief executive Damian Gammell described as “headwinds” in 2018, with the group’s revenues having declined by 2.5% in Great Britain last year driven by the weakening of the pound against the euro.

On a product basis, Coca-Cola’s flagship drink noted a 0.5% slip in North and Western Europe last year, while products like Coke Zero inched up by 15% among increasingly health conscious consumers. So then, it’s little wonder the brand wants to funnel some investment into its classic brand.

Citing Nielsen data, Coke claims to be the number one cola brand by value, volume and penetration in Britain, however outwith sales and awareness it is likely to face another challenge courtesy of the UK government in the coming months.

The launch of ‘We Do’ corresponds with the introduction of the Westminster's levy on sugar which will see soft drinks manufactures taxed at 18p per litre on drinks containing 5g or more of sugar per 100ml.

Where some, like Irn Bru, have tweaked their recipes to escape the tax, Coca-Cola has been resolute in sticking to its tried and tested formula; instead planning to cut the size of its 1.75l bottles to 1.5l up the price by an estimated 20p. 500ml bottles will also be subject to a price increase of around 16p.

Commenting on the new campaign, Aedamar Howlett, marketing director at Coca-Cola Great Britain said: “Recently, we have been asked why we are not changing the recipe of Coca-Cola Classic and quite simply, that’s because it’s an iconic and delicious drink which people from across the world enjoy."

According to Mintel data, while UK consumption of carbonated soft drinks like Coca-Cola continues to be high with 74% of consumers buying them. However, media attention on sugar has hit brands, with usage falling to 58% from 62% in 2016.

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