Coca-Cola would like you to reminisce about the role the iconic beverage has played in your most precious life memories, alongside your giant, disembodied BFF (Best Friend Forever) tongue…? At the centrepiece of the brand’s summer 2019 campaign, a tongue frolics through sand and snow in a bizarre and inane execution that taps into the nostalgia associated with drinking Coke.
The ad got tongues wagging around Cubery HQ, so we tested the 60″ launch TVC amongst a representative UK audience to see if consumers were as startled as us.
Much like Coca-Cola, we also use 3 ‘Cs’, however ours are to predict advertising effectiveness:
- Captivate: Does it attract and retain viewers’ attention, and engage them in an emotional way?
- Connect: Does it leverage unique brand properties to create instant recognition?
- Compel: Does it leave people with a lasting impression about the brand, which primes them to choose it?
Built upon the brand’s long-running ‘happiness’ platform, ‘The Magic Taste of Coke’ espoused many of the brand’s iconic qualities, including the up-beat, youthful and fun vibe. But while the ad was seen to be unique and attention-grabbing, much of this was for the wrong reasons.
‘The Magic Taste of Coke’ generated a whopping three times the level of annoyance and irritation compared to the average TV commercial. “Distaste” primarily related to the gigantic tongue that pervades the execution, its startling presence overshadowing everything else. Many people described it as ‘creepy’ and ‘disturbing’.
With the ‘happiness’ theme underpinning all of Coca-Cola’s global communications, some people found the style, tone and messaging familiar. Other people picked up on unique branding cues such as the glass bottle, distinctive red colour and lorry/truck.
However, the animated tongue won the lion’s share of viewer attention, being recalled (in a mostly unflattering way) as the ad’s most salient element.
The unorthodox approach lacked fluency with people’s perceptions of the brand, inhibiting the connection back to Coca-Cola.
The central premise behind the ad was to tap into feelings of nostalgia associated with drinking Coke, specifically its “…unique ability to evoke positive feelings and emotions associated with special memories…” (Walter Susini, SVP Marketing, Coca-Cola).
However, the giant, novelty-sized tongue overshadowed this executional nuance, with the zany adventures quickly detracting attention away from the narrative setup which painted Coke as the catalyst behind the ensuing happy memories. As a result, the core message which inextricably tied Coke to life’s precious memories was lost on people.
Despite the left-of-centre idea capturing viewer attention, ‘The Magic Taste of Coke’ didn’t leave people feeling good. The tongue detracted from the underlying message and turned people off, rather than informing and entertaining them as was intended.
Weak framing of the narrative makes it difficult to see how shorter cuts will be any more effective. With the ad designed to rely on Coke’s unique properties, it will also be difficult to make quick amendments to create a more meaningful connection to the brand.
In the absence of a clear impression being left about the brand or making people feel more favourable toward it, the short-and long-term impact of ‘The Magic Taste of Coke’ is limited.
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