Coca-Cola, as I’m sure every reader of this magazine knows, had a
rotten 1999. It was banned in Belgium, young kids were sick after
drinking from contaminated cans (allegedly) and its dominance of the
soft drinks market came in for further regulatory investigation.
It also lost its chief executive Doug Invester, replacing him with the
unfortunately named Douglas Daft. So what does the soft drinks giant do
in response? It restructures its management, talks of a regional
renaissance in local management decision-making, admits it made mistakes
- oh, and it put on sales of almost 10% in the UK grocery market.
Our Biggest Brands survey, published this week (see page 23), shows that
talk of the death of the FMCG brand is much exaggerated. The survey
tells a story of dynamic, aggressive brands that see possibilities for
further growth, even in the most mature markets. A look at the top of
the table shows how creative marketing and innovative thinking can allow
veteran brands to develop in response to their markets. Behind Coke is
Walkers, which through its Gary Lineker ads and Books for Schools
initiative has transformed its fortunes. Then there’s Stella Artois with
a staggering rise of 23.6% in sales, helped by its ’reassuringly
expensive’ tag and film sponsorship marketing programme.
There are other big winners in the table - Lucozade’s sales are up 10%
and Carling’s more than 20% - that hammer home the argument that brands
and businesses can be reinvented with strong marketing and the right
relationship with their consumers.
Over the past 18 months or so it has once again become fashionable to
knock major FMCG companies and declare that the days of the
old-fashioned, mass-produced, packaged goods are numbered. These
arguments underestimate the importance of the trust consumers have in
big brands to deliver on their promises.
Marketers today are faced with a conundrum; shoppers want lots of
choice, so they say, but they don’t want to make lots of decisions.
’Simplify for me, make my life easier’ is the message to marketers. And
that is exactly what the world’s biggest brands do.They act as a
shorthand message, telling the consumer that they will deliver.
But today’s Biggest Brands are all too aware that trust and relationship
are fragile. Sunny Delight, named by Marketing last year as the most
successful FMCG brand of the last decade, has seen sales slide by almost
10% as its ingredients came under media scrutiny.
The Biggest Brands survey shows that the FMCG sector is still alive and
kicking with passion. The ’death of the dotcom’ hype suggests that the
biggest winners in the new digital century will be many of the same
brands that dominated the last one.