Food & Drink Food & Drink Focus Marketing

Coke’s TikTok-exclusive flavor: Behold the era of products designed for social shops

By Josie Dougoud, Digital Account Director

The Romans


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February 22, 2024 | 6 min read

For The Drum’s food & drink focus week, Josie Dougoud of The Romans looks at Coke’s made-for-TikTok flavor. Does it herald a new era of ‘platform-up’ products?

A geometric grid of Coca-Cola cans

Coca-Cola has launched a TikTok-only drink. Is it a sign of things to come? / Pawel Czerwinski via Unsplash

As gen Z’s buying power grows, so too does the need for their attention and engagement on the platforms they favor.

One of the latest to give it a go is Coca-Cola. The drinks giant emerged last week with a brand-new offering in its Coca-Cola Creations series, ‘Happy Tears’, exclusively launching on TikTok for Random Acts of Kindness Day (17 February).

Silver-clad with lower-case text, embossed with a simple, iridescent drop, the limited-edition launch is a mystery-flavored, mineral-infused, sugar-free soda that “draws inspiration from the simplicity of happy tears – a small, clear droplet filled with optimism and joy that’s created from the smallest acts of kindness”, according to Coca-Cola.

It’s undeniably a straight play to gen Z. That’s one of the things getting people talking. But, mostly, the launch is making waves because it’s been designed with social shopping in mind.

The ‘platform-up’ paradigm

Let’s look at the facts: half of this generation is still finding new brands on TikTok, more so than any other social media platform – and gen Z (more than any other generation) is relying on the platform for recommendations around purchasing decisions.

It’s refreshing to see such a globally iconic brand such as Coca-Cola recognize this, and rip up their brand rulebook to build something from the platform up, with the audience in mind at every turn. From design, to platform, to amplification, that audience is intrinsic to the work, not supplementary.

It’s nice to see a consideration beyond the product too, with accompanying stickers, t-shirts and tissues. While perhaps not ground-breaking in delivery, we know aesthetics are important to gen Z – perhaps not as important as the clout exclusivity brings on social. Luckily, this kind of platform-first work can bring both.

Beyond beauty

TikTok Shop has been largely dominated by beauty brands until now, many of which have found huge success on the platform. The Coke launch, smartly, follows all the tropes of this category: curated packaging, unboxing-perfect gifting, and an accompanying filter. Leveraging this gives the product a chance to authentically fit within the space it looks to occupy.

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The proof of the product’s success will be its social roll-out, with whisperings of 14 creators responsible for driving the buzz around this product, all native to TikTok shop – a nice touch that demonstrates a broader awareness of the platform, and the changing needs of consumers.

A product is arguably only as good as its pick up in 2024, so we'll have to wait and see how gen Z responds. In some rather ad-hoc research, my younger sister thinks “it’s kind of cool?”, so we can only take that as a hopeful sign that others could agree, right?

Will we see other brands follow suit? Absolutely. But instead of jumping on the TikTok Shop hype, the focus should be on building channel-specific marketing strategies from the get-go (instead of it being a consideration in the roll-out) to create something that truly feels authentic online.

For more about food, drink, and the smartest ways to market them, check out our dedicated focus week hub.

Food & Drink Food & Drink Focus Marketing

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The Romans

We’re bored of boring PR. Founded in 2015 and backed by advertising agency Mother, our team has worked with some of the world’s most exciting brands and created...

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