Can Coca-Cola’s New Ploy Win Back Haters?

Health questions related to Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) are making headlines again, but this time, the company is talking. Following a turbulent year of accusations from health experts and lawmakers that Coke’s beverages were sugar-laden and contributing to the current obesity epidemic, the company has issued a new policy that it hopes will reduce concerns and criticism.

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The Financial Times reported on Coke’s new agenda that will incorporate clearer calorie-count labels, a promotion of its diet drinks, and a promise not to market to children under 12. With soda sales falling drastically  in the U.S., it comes as no surprise that Coke is trying to pull out all stops.

This isn’t the first time Coke has tried to portray itself as a combatant in the war against obesity. The company has not only used its marketing to encourage consumers to adopt more healthy lifestyles, but it also runs ads highlighting its low or zero-calorie drinks, a component of its industry that Coke boasts is a quarter of its 3,500 beverages.

Despite these attempts, the world’s largest beverage company has met with significant backlash. The two-minute ads that appeared on national television in the U.S. in January drew especially severe criticism. Many people called Coke hypocritical and scorned it for using only skinny people in its ads.

Similarly, advertisement strategies for Diet Coke have not been well-received. Business Insider Advertising explained the new campaign as “[depicting] a reimagined vending machine design — a “Slendor Vendor” that measures about 7 inches in width” with a video ad that constructs the “thinnest vending machine in the world” to showcase how “famously fit and elegant” Diet Coke is. Many complained that the ads highlighted the compulsion to be thin and were deliberately marketed only to women.

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The question then remains: will Coke win against its critics? Though struck down, New York City’s attempt to ban “supersized” sweetened drinks continues to hang over the company’s head, along with that of its rival Pepsico (NYSE:PEP).

Coke has released no timeline or cost trajectory for its newest policy.

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