Coca-Cola is already a well-known global brand. The soft drink company has promoted its line of soft drinks far and wide. Now, though, Coke is trying something a little bit different. Instead of a sugar and caffeine high, Coke is sharing a different kind of buzz… at least in Japan.
The soft drink company says it plans to launch an alcoholic beverage in Japan later this year. The drink will, reportedly, be a form of flavored sparkling water mixed with shochu, a popular Japanese distilled spirit.
But don’t expect Coke to try this kind of thing in US markets. With this program, Coke is responding directly to a Japanese market singularity, according to Yohko Okabe, who told CNN the new offering was “highly Japan-specific”. In a recent blog post, the president of Coca-Cola Japan called the drink a “unique” addition to the soft drink company’s lineup, admitting the company has not “experimented” in the alcohol market before.
The Japanese Market
Japan presents a unique challenge for Coke. While the brand is very well established in the United States and other markets, Japan is a highly-competitive, ever-changing market, and Coke has to fight for every inch. Japanese consumers love ‘different’ and ‘new,’ and Coke is doing all it can to keep up with the ever-changing Japanese appetite.
Coke is hoping this foray into alcohol goes better than its previous attempts. Many don’t even remember when Coke attempted to get into the wine market back in the 1970s. That attempt didn’t take, and Coke folded those operations after only a few years.
But some markets, like Japan, expect “experiments,” and Coke has seen some success marketing Japan-specific products in the past. Several, including Aquarius, Georgia Coffee, and Sokenbicha have done well for the company, both in Japan and elsewhere in the world.
The other side of the coin is that Coke has to protect its carefully cultivated brand here in the U.S. market. Because Coke is seen here as a family-friendly beverage for kids’ parties and youthful fun, the idea of Coke promoting an alcoholic beverage might be at cross purposes with the company’s established American brand.
That’s not to say expanding into the alcohol business in the U.S. is a dead idea, but it’s not happening any time soon. In the meantime, Coke is content to conduct its consumer PR experiment in Japan, hoping to retain just a bit more of the coveted Japanese beverage market.
Ronn Torossian is the CEO and founder of 5W Public Relations.