Thanks to social media, consumers have many outlets to express their thoughts, ideas, needs and wants for almost anyone to see. We all know that there is an abundance of information that is available online, but the real challenge is turning that information into value. With the reintroduction of the citrus flavoured soft drink called SURGE, Coca-Cola just showed everyone how to do exactly that.
The resurgence of the citrus flavoured soft drink, pun intended, is a textbook example of successful marketing in the digital age. Coca-Cola’s decision to bring SURGE back demonstrates the value that social media can provide to a company. More specifically though this is the result of successful social media monitoring, which is only one part of the social media equation. Social media monitoring is essentially just as it sounds – it entails observing social media channels for anything relevant to your company, product or cause, and trying to leverage it for your benefit. This can be anything from a mention, a product review, a customer service issue, or in this case, a devoted Facebook Fan Page about a discontinued product. The Facebook page called “SURGE Movement” is a fan community where brand loyalists can revel in 90’s nostalgia and share their love for the product. After what I assume was countless hours of brainstorming search terms, perusing twitter and browsing webpages, Coke’s social media team stumbled upon the Facebook page. To the average person, this would have just looked like an ordinary fan page, but luckily Coke’s social media team saw this as an opportunity. They were able to realize that this online niche acted as an organic form of crowdsourcing and there was actually significant demand for the product. Fast-forwarding past months of internal conversations and meetings, the product of social media monitoring has turned into the reintroduction of a discontinued product.
In addition to utilizing social media monitoring, Coke is further exemplifying successful marketing in the digital age through their distribution of SURGE. It is evident that Coke is going full steam ahead in the digital realm by choosing to distribute SURGE exclusively through Amazon. This is a huge deviation from the norm in beverage distribution, but in this case I think that this is a very smart decision. Since the demand for this product comes from a niche market it doesn’t make financial sense to invest in widespread distribution through the normal channels like grocery stores. Additionally, distributing through Amazon appeals to SURGE’s original drinkers who are men in their 20’s and 30’s. It is likely that they have purchased items through the website in the past and will be comfortable using Amazon to purchase SURGE. In fact, this distribution choice was proven when Amazon sold out of SURGE twice in first day.
Finally, I’d like to touch on the business implications of re-releasing SURGE. While it may seem like a company fulfilling the needs of the customer it is important to look at how this impacts Coca-Cola’s financials. In my opinion, this move by Coke is all about capturing incremental revenue and market share in a declining market. The soft drink category continues to shrink as consumers become more health conscious and move away from the sugary drinks. Companies know this and have released numerous waters, juices, teas and smoothies to match the changing consumer preferences. However Coca-Cola is not a water or juice company. The core business of Coke is sparkling drinks and they will do anything to maintain their position in the market. Coke makes the majority of their money from soft drinks, in contrast to Pepsi who relies on Gatorade to stay afloat. The return of SURGE signals Coke’s intention to increase their share of the ever-shrinking sparkling beverage pie and continue to stay a highly profitable company.
Nevertheless, I think that what Coke did here should be used as an example for other companies. When we learn about social media, we continue to hear about how powerful it can be and how it can disrupt industries. We’re taught about the importance of monitoring social channels and acting on opportunities, but up until recently its all been theoretical. The return of SURGE signals the change from theoretical to practical. It is a textbook example of how to execute social media monitoring and how to turn that into a business gain. I think that this has really disrupted the industry and that we can expect to see more cases like this in the near future.