Wednesday 15 October 2008

Dasani Fiasco - an advertising case study

I. A synopsis of the previous launch of Dasani outlining why the product failed:

Dasani was launched in the UK in February 2004 followed by a series of unpleasant episodes which finally forced the company to withdraw the product from market. Following events said to have a significant contribution towards the commercial and ethical demise of the brand:

The product: Purified ‘tap’ water with added minerals can be termed as a substandard product in a highly sophisticated and well-informed market of bottled water.

The preparation: It is clearly visible from the case that Coke saw Europe and the UK as a huge opportunity area and pounced over it to precede ‘Aquafina’ without any concrete research or prior preparation. There was no test marketing done to find out or anticipate the response of potential consumers.

Lack of transparency and misleading communication: The brand was positioned as ‘Natural, Pure Mineral Water’ which wasn’t true, the company had to backtrack on its positioning when it was discovered by FSA and lost face in public.

High price and unjustified profit margins: As mentioned in the case the price of original source of water per bottle was hardly 0.03p and it was sold at 95p, this meant a mark up of over 3000%.

Antagonised retail partners: Coke tried hard to bully retailers for not stocking other local brands of bottled water but it backfired and further complicated the matter for Dasani.

Sluggish response to Media allegations: A prompt response through a quick press conference could have help Coke in resolving this fiasco to some extent but they took enormously long time to go mass. By the time they went on air, media had caused irreparable damage to the brand image.

Irresponsible corporate communication: In the press conference the top officials of Coke sounded highly irresponsible and arrogant. Instead of acknowledging the problems they kept on confronting it. An apologetic approach could have lessened the severity of damaged caused to the over all corporate image.

Controversy with FSA: FSA further tripped the company because they found that the label was misleading.

Bromate fiasco: Presence of Bromate in the samples was the final nail in the coffin which forced Coke to withdraw the stocks from market within 2 months of their launch.

From the above incident company can learn following lessons:

1. Do not compromise with product quality at any cost
2. Carry out enough research to understand the market, competitors and the customers before launching the product
3. Test market the product before the launch
4. Maintain high level of transparency and avoid misleading and over promising communication
5. Always be responsive and proactive to criticism
6. Prepare a contingency plan and avoid delayed reactions
7. Do not exercise power or threat against the stakeholders (retailers)
8. Acknowledge the mistake rather than confronting it

How should Coca-Cola go about re-introducing Dasani again? (How would I do it differently if I were the Brand Manager)
I. Brand name

Although Dasani is withdrawn from the shelves and markets but the brand is still alive in the minds of consumers for all the bad reasons. For a re-launch Coke must sort-out a new brand name to get rid of the negative secondary associations and off-putting past experience.
Consumer’s awareness of a brand name is the critical first step in development of brand knowledge. According to keller 1995, Brand awareness is predicted on the existence of a brand node that often occupies a central position in consumers brand memory structures as different type of brand information becomes associated during brand encounters1.

As the Brand Manager, I would name the brand as “Bliss”, which has a positive, joyful connotation and it is easy to pronounce and remember.

II. Product packaging and design

The product will be packed and supplied in 500ml transparent water bottles. There will be minimum embossing on the bottle surface to enhance the transparent and pure look of the water and the bottle. The plastic material would be of high quality, thicker than the usual bottles. The idea is develop a highly attractive yet simple pack to encourage consumers to take it home and reuse.
Product label would contain all necessary instructions and details about the content, its quantity and quality, date of manufacturing and expiry. The bottle would also have a sipper on top with a protective snap-lid and seal to preserve the sanctity of the contents.

III. Brand personality

Brand personality can be formally defined as a set of human characteristics associated with a brand. In contrast to ‘product-related attributes’ which tend to serve as a utilitarian function for consumers, brand personality tends to serve a symbolic or self-expressive function (Keller 1993).
The grater the congruity between the human characteristics that consistently and distinctively describe a brand, the grater the preference for the brand (Malhotra 1988).

Personality of Bliss:
She is 35 something, a mother of 2
A doctor by profession
She is beautiful, confident, graceful, enthusiastic, kind, benevolent, sacrificing, truthful, humorous, believes in religion, bubbly, sensitive.
She helps, counsels, mediates
She laughs and she cries
She stands up against injustice
She is cautious, aware, knowledgeable, careful
She teaches, she guides, she protects, she loves

On the five dimensions of brand personality proposed by Jennifer Aaker , Bliss
scores high on 3 of them, Sincerity, Competence and Sophistication. However ruggedness and excitement are slightly less visible traits as the brand image is more feminine.

IV. Positioning Strategy

In marketing, positioning has come to mean the process by which marketers try to create an image or identity in the minds of their target market for its product, brand, or organization. It is the 'relative competitive comparison' their product occupies in a given market as perceived by the target market. More generally, there are three types of positioning concepts:

Functional positions
Solve problems
Provide benefits to customers
Get favorable perception by investors (stock profile) and lenders
Symbolic positions
Self-image enhancement
Ego identification
Belongingness and social meaningfulness
Affective fulfillment

Experiential positions
Provide sensory stimulation
Provide cognitive stimulation

The positioning of Bliss is more of symbolic because it serves all the above mentioned purposes for the consumers viz, enhances the self image, helps consumers identify their ego, and gives them a sense of belongingness and social meaningfulness. In addition, it also gives an assurance to the buyer on the quality aspect.
From the competitive point of view the positioning strategy for Bliss can be broadly divided into two options:
a) close to competitors
b) away from the competitors.

Let’s look at the positioning strategy of Dasani's main competitors:

Brand: Aquafina
Tagline: Make your body happy
Target segment: 20-45 M/F
Positioning: Healthy and tasty

Live Young
16-25 M/F
Purity, equilibrium and health

Get fresh with Parrier
16-25 M/F
Freshness, fun and youth

20-30 M/F

Fills you with Volcanicity
20-45 M/F
Natural Mineral water

Highland Spring
05-45 M/F
Natural Mineral Water

Although the concept of purity is beaten to death in the mineral bottled water category, but looking at the history of Dasani, Coke must aggressively ride on the ‘purity plank’. Another reason for choosing purity is that none of the brands have taken purity as the single most dominant product attribute. Purity has always been adulterated with freshness, health, youth, taste and fitness. The above trend could be seen as an excellent opportunity to win the consumer mindshare for purity with Bliss.

Hence Bliss will be positioned as the purest form of water on Earth.

V. Agency brief for advertising campaign and TV commercial

  • To launch a mineral bottled water brand in a highly competitive, cluttered and lucrative market.
  • To attain leadership status by creating a positive disposition for the new brand amongst the target audience.
  • To reassure the well-informed and educated consumers about the excellent quality and purity of the product.
Target Audience
Health conscious, fast living urban males and females between the age group of 15- 45 years. People, who buy mineral water for its purity, read the contents and ingredients carefully. Uncompromising mothers who are ready to pay any cost to get the best for their children and family. Cash rich time poor, single guilt ridden parents.

Product description
500ml bottled water, sourced from natural sources with no additives.

Key Benefits
Absolute indisputable purity and the peace of mind.

Reason to believe
The source of water, the filtration and bottling process, high tech infrastructure and manufacturing facilities.

Background/Competitive Positioning
Competitors: Aquafina, Evian, Perrier, Vittel, Volvic and Highland Spring.
Realities: Highly competitive and cluttered with dominant players.
Obstacles: previous history of Coke with Dasani, me too brand, low differentiation, generic and low involvement category.

Communication Strategy
As bottled water is quite a generic market, most of the brands are not able justify their claims of purity just by showing factory pictures, high-tech filtration process and strict examination of samples. Yet, the consumers want a strong reassuring brand. A scientific communication would be boring and uninteresting, therefore the communication strategy is to evoke an emotional response and create a positive disposition for the brand.

Desired Message Tone
Sincere, emotional, dramatic yet modest, firm, promising, positive and confident. The entire Ad will run in slow motion with strong and promising visual cues of trust, sincerity and purity.

VI. Story Board

Scene 1: The camera zooms out in slow motion from a new born baby’s face and shows an exhilarated mother kissing baby’s forehead with tears in her eyes. Background music: Soft and emotional scene fades off slowly
Scene 2: An orangutan mother lovingly hugs the baby close to her chest.
(Refer to the voice over)
Scene 3: A baby elephant mischievously runs around his mothers in an open landscape and the mother caringly brings him back close to her with the trunk, to stop him from straying
Scene 4: The camera zooms into the face of a lioness licking a cute cub and grooming the tender fur on his body.
Scene 5: A panda cuddling it's baby
Scene 6: A bird is feeding it's young ones with a selfless pursuit
Scene 7: A dolphin slowly swimming up to the surface of a blue ocean shadowing and protecting its baby underneath
Scene 8: The blue background of ocean transforms into a stream of pure water falling into a clear glass forming bubbles.
Scene 9: The camera zooms out and shows a young executive holding the glass and sipping it with his eyes closed

Scene 10:
The camera cuts into a beautiful girls face in her track suit drinking Bliss and looking at the bottle with content and smile on her face.
Scene 11: A good looking hunky man sipping Bliss with his eyes closed.
Scene 12: Logo of bliss appears on the screen followed by the bottle and the tag line - Bliss, as pure as mother’s love!!

Voice Over:
You can see it in her eyes--in her gaze and in her sighs, It is a mother's love. You can feel it in her touch--in her tender hugs and such. It is a mother's love. You can hear it in her words- in her praises and by words, it is a mother's love. She cares, She understands, She lends an ear and holds our hands. She gives us a mother's love”. (Anonymous)
Can anything be more natural than mother’s love?
Water is the essence of life
Sanctity of water demands no compromise, just like mother’s love
Introducing Bliss the purest form of water on earth,
As pure as mothers love, so that you don’t have to compromise

VII. Monitoring and evaluation
“Measuring message effectiveness is a difficult and expensive task. In the absence of formal research, we will not know whether the ongoing advertisement is doing good job, nor we would know what to change to improve further advertising efforts. Advertising research enables management to increase advertising’s contribution towards achieving marketing goals and yielding a reasonable return on investment (shimp 2007)”.

There are broadly two forms of ad research: measure of media effectiveness and message effectiveness. Measurement of Media effectiveness critically involves a quantitative evaluation of reach, frequency, weight, consistency and continuity of the message to the target audience, whereas message effectiveness involves a qualitative analysis of the impact of message on the target audience.

Measurement of Message effectiveness – pre campaign evaluation
“There are 4 stages at which ad message research might be conducted:
1. at the copy development stage
2. at the rough stage
3. at the final production stage, prior to airing the ads
4. After the ad has been run in media. (Shimp 2007)”

Qualitative message research
A focus group research would be carried out for testing the mix and to ensure that executions convey correct image and are understood by consumers at every stage of message development. A story board would be shown to a panel of focus group participants and then with the probing of the moderator would be urged to share their opinion and feelings about the commercial.

Quantitative Message research – Post campaign evaluation

  • Measure of recognition and recall: viewers would be asked questions to find out if they remember the ad, brand name and other details.
  • Online research – e mail different commercials to online users to find out if they remember seeing the adverts.
  • Day after recall testing would be deployed to measure the recall value of the advert.
  • Since the advert has a very high emotional appeal we would also deploy the galvanometer test to measure the emotional reaction and physiological arousal.
  • ARS persuasion method would be deployed to measure the individual selling proposition as well as the entire television commercial.
  • The sales response would be measured by Scan Track and Behavior Scan tests, where in the scanners would be installed in panel member’s homes. But this technique may not be much effective because most people consume bottled water as and when the need arises and do not bring bottles home beforehand.

    Sankar Sen,
    The Effects of Brand Name Suggestiveness and Decision Goal on the Development of Brand Knowledge Journal of consumer psychology Vol 8 no. 4 (1999), pp 431-455 Stable
  • Jennifer L. Akar (Dimensions of Brand Personality) Journal of Marketing Research Vol XXXIV (Aug 1997) 347-356
  • accessed online on 1st June 2007 available from world wide
  • Dematrios Vakaratsas et al. Journal of Marketing Vol. 63 (January 1999), 26-43
  • Fill. C(1999) Marketing communications contexts, contents and strategies, Prentice hall
  • Kapferer J (2004) The new strategic brand management Kogan page US Kotler, P. & Armstrong, G. (1996).
  • Principles of Marketing. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, Inc
  • Wheatley, J. (Editor). (1969). Measuring Advertising Effectiveness. Selected Readings. Ontario: AMA Reprint Series. Richard D. Irwin Inc.
  • Shimp (2007) Integrated marketing communications in Advertising and promotion, Thomson south western


ABR said...

hmm .. well i wud lik to comment on a few points. Its naive to assume that an entity like coke did not do proper research or that it had inferior quality marketing managers. What appears to be the case is that coke was a victim of its own brand image and the 'pressure' which comes as part of it.
'Water' is not coke and what coke tried to do was market water as coke cause it was frm coke !!!
it failed to realize that something as basic as water should not be marketed for the brand but for the purity and the very elementary nature of the commodity.
Also when u are entering an area already dominated by long standing players .. u need to strike at the only location which actually matters i.e. pocket. make it cheap and make it simple .. which ironically dsnt go well with the image of coke ..

but all said and done .. marketing is the name on selling refrigerators to Eskimos so in the end the axe must fall on the marketing guys .. a pro marketeer can get away with most of the things .. even a little bromide :-)

Veeena said...

Great Job!!
The whole analysis depicts the depth of your exploration and experience. I enjoyed reading it .. Good Day!

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