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Wednesday, 29 November, 2000, 01:39 GMT
Silence is golden, says Coke
Search facility on Coca-Cola website
Burn: even Coca-Cola's own website had no record of the drink
Coca-Cola, the drinks giant which spends about $7bn a year selling its barrels, cans and bottles, has added a new weapon to its marketing armoury - secrecy.


Exactly when it went out, I am not sure. But it is sometime about now

Andrew Coker, Coca-Cola

The firm, which typically unveils a new brand with the fanfare of a royal birth, has introduced its latest drink with all the hysteria of a sleepathon.

For unaware Britons, which means those who failed to visit one of five select London style bars, Coca-Cola on Monday launched its first drink in the UK since 1993.

Or so Andrew Coker, communications director of the Coca-Cola Company, believes.

'Sometime about now'

"Exactly when it went out, I am not sure," he told BBC News Online on Tuesday. "But it is sometime about now."

And where are these select bars, which Coca-Cola has so far refused to name?

"I don't actually know," Mr Coker said. "I didn't want to know, and be in the position where, if the word got out, my colleagues would blame me for letting the cat out of the bag."

He was aware of the name of the drink, Burn, a high-energy beverage seen as a competitor to Red Bull.

"I have even tasted it. It is quite fruity in flavour. Rather nice."

International research

Indeed, the decision to launch Burn amid a barrage of non-publicity follows a slightly broader ranging, international, range of groundwork.

UK rower Steve Redgrave after winning an Olympic gold
Sydney 2000: about marketing as well as medals

"The Sydney Olympics was not just the greatest sporting event in the world but the greatest party. We did a lot of market testing there."

Sports, or leisure, enthusiasts in Burn's target customer range of 18-26 found themselves particularly targeted by Coca-Cola marketing executives.

In London, the firm tackled DJs linked to the kind of style bars which Burn will be sold in - indeed the drink will not be retailed in supermarkets or corner shops.

Word-of-mouth

The research work supported Coca-Cola's belief that the exploitation of mystery and word-of-mouth would best achieve its aim of grabbing market share from Red Bull, which sells 300m cans a year in the UK.

"What we want is for people to discover Burn, enjoy it, and tell their friends. We want to sell it in a direct way.

What's the point of spending money on a television advertising campaign if you don't have to?"

Advertising leader

The decision comes from a company which has earned worldwide respect for its advertising campaigns, More than 12,000 people a second reach for a Coca-Cola drink.

Indeed Coca-Cola is, in essence, a marketing company, owning brands such as Fanta and Sprite, the firm's last UK launch, but hiring contractors to bottle the drinks.

The firm advertises in more than 40 different languages, voiced over 140 different tracks selected for different local markets.

In South Africa, the firm created a 3-D movie backed by special effects "to remind consumers of the pleasure of drinking a Coke".

"We're in the business of marketing," the firm's annual report said. " And to effectively reach consumers, we have to be the best in the world."

'Do things differently'

Douglas Daft, who took over as Coca-Cola chairman and chief executive in February, has demanded the firm introduces new techniques to respond to change prompted by the growth of the internet and e-commerce.

Douglas Daft, Coca-Cola's chairman and chief executive
Douglas Daft: has demanded innovation

"He wants us do things differently, to find new ways of selling our drinks," Mr Coker said.

He hoped Burn will exploit the internet by becoming a drink popularised through e-mail messages.

Bargoers in Manchester and Birmingham will be the next customers to see if Mr Coker's optimism is well founded.

After that, the drink may be launched around Europe, and the globe.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Mr Coker is not sure of the exact details.

"Possibly the US. Possibly France. We will have to see," he said.

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