Honest Tea

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Sales of Coca-Cola’s flagship product, the carbonated sugary drink we know a Coke, dropped 3.5% last quarter; proof you can’t go against a cultural tide of healthier living and expect sales to hold forever. Coke’s parent has been doing a great job of diversifying its portfolio the last 10 years by adding juices, milk-based protein drinks, waters and energy drinks. Even with the tide receding for flagship Coke, earnings have been surprisingly okay. Looks like that is not the case anymore.

If you follow the tech sector as I do, you will know that product innovation can completely change markets is 3-5 years. The beverage sector has lots of innovations, according to Beverage Digest, but they are really incremental. Coconut water, craft beer, energy concoctions, and cold pressed juices are nice ways of redistributing marketing wealth, but haven’t fueled the big ass innovations we’ve seen in tech.

Coke needs to think differently. I’ve posted before about how they need to send R&D people into the jungles in search of the next cola nut…something with healthy properties. But Coke also needs to think about pricing and delivery. Why 12 oz. cans? Why cans and bottles? Why not explode the price point for a six pack? How about an annual subscription fee? Coke’s head is so tied up in its bottler arrangements, distribution networks, store detailers, fountain business it can’t think like an agile start-up. Sure they can buy 49% of the next Honest Tea, but can they be the next SnapChat.

My bet is they can. But not if they follow the innovation courses of GM or the financial industry. Follow the tech paradigm. Peace.  

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coke and bottle logo

It may date this blogger, but I still believe Coca-Cola is one of the world’s greatest brands.  At McCann-Erickson in the 90s when the editing floors echoed with the best commercial music extant, Coke’s TV spots were the envy of the business. Then the tea and water craze came about, sales slipped and agency roulette began. Frankly, it had a severe impact on the McCann brand, but that’s a story for another day.

One of Coke’s big pushes today, to lift all Coke brands (Sprite, Minute Maid, Vitamin Water, Honest Tea, etc.), is promoting all the good it does.  Many of these efforts can be found at the “Live Positively” website.  The site has about 90 different links and, though pretty, is a disorganized mess. Too much to choose from, therefore I choose not to choose. The beauty about good advertising is, done well, it tells a simple story.  That goes for websites too. Brand sites need to be “idea based” not “menu based.”

I was reading the paper paper today and after many stories about the devastating earthquake in Haiti, came across 3 consecutive ads by Coke on its good work for Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Student Scholarships, and Rails to Trails.  Nice image burnishing communications.  But menu based advertising. 

Before Coke split into 20 companies, with 500 marketing people in siloed, still-to-be-organized departments, someone smart would have said “Let’s load up one of our planes with Coke and Dasani and fly it down to Port au Prince with some ice.”  That’s “living positively.” That’s an idea. That’s refreshing. Peace!

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Google built a business, quite well I might add, on perfecting search and search usability. They funded the business with advertising.  The brand play was not to be the world’s greatest advertising platform (something Yahoo and AOL didn’t understand), it was all about search. 

Back in the day (last week, hee hee) Google search was all about the Web.  Finding things digital.  This week, it’s about seeing and searching for digital things in the physical world.  So mobile apps and navigation are the rage. Google hasn’t led the way here, Apple has, but Google wasn’t first in search either.

What’s next?

What’s next is search for physical things in the physical world. Call it worldwide inventory. What is worldwide inventory and how will it work?  Not sure, but this cantaloupe sized brain of mine says it may have to do with barcodes.  Now you can’t put a bar code on an $11,000 hip replacement in Mexico (You can’t?) but you can put one on a $12.00 case of Honest Tea with torn labels. The ability for mankind to find real things, in proximity, with their smart phones is what Google will be doing over the next decade. And that hip replacement or $6,000 valve bypass in China will be something worth searching  for. Stay with search Google — it will soon be atop Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs.

Worldwide Inventory may sound like a Pearl Jam song but it’s an Eric Schmidt song.  Peace!

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I’ll soon be sending my son off to college and he has no real reading skills. Were college conducted as a videogame he’d be golden.  Some college kids in journalism class, by a show of hands, have never read a newspaper. Magazines for teens, tweens and millennials…well you get my drift.


TV, computer and mobile phones are the media of choice for kids.  Product placement on those screens is a viable investment for marketers. But product placement is a funny thing; it can be amazingly persuasive or it can fall flat. When well integrated into a story it’s a beautiful, ferociously effective selling tactic. Yet when slapped into a story without finesse, it just lies there like a stanky flip-flop. If a cast member of Gossip Girl drinks a bottle of Honest Tea, it’s “passive” and smart. When the Celebrity Apprentice builds a project around, say, a Maybelline cosmetic, it’s “active” and weak. 


Forced product placement sticks out and everyone recognizes it. It just doesn’t feel right. As marketers we need to minimize that smelly flip-lop or we’ll alienate consumers young and not so.



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