Don’t Miss The Mist

8 10 2010

A week ago I wrote about how Kleenex is letting us send product samples to our sniffling friends. It is a very effective way to promote product sampling, and allows Kleenex to gather customer information in the process. By making the entire transaction interactive (the gift giver gets to track the package), it ensures a high level of engagement. Great ROI. Warm fuzzies.

While this is a great way to get maximum bang for the marketing buck, not all products lend themselves so nicely to such a calculated distribution. Which explains why Pepsi is going old school tomorrow when they hand out 10,000,000 cans of their new Sierra Mist Natural at 2800 Walmarts across the country.

Yowza. That’s a lot of soda. Over 400,000 cases. Try stacking that in the aisle.

Such a massive giveaway requires coordination with Pepsi bottlers all over the country, as well as with Walmart, which is not particularly known for in-store sampling (unlike their Sam’s Club division). And all for…pardon me while I yawn…a new version of an old brand of lemon-lime soda?

Good job, Sherlock. You rooted out the problem. Pepsi is having to give away a bunch of otherwise boring product to highlight the fact that this new-and-improved beverage is Sierra Mist Natural. Cue the fireworks and the symphony. Natural as in “we used real sugar.”

And thus concludes our foray into allegedly healthier food products.

This is not the first effort by a soda maker to return to real sugar. You see, over 30 years ago beverage bottlers quietly started switching to high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) as a sweetener. It is cheap. It is abundant. Coke slipped it in back in 1985 during the New Coke/Coke Classic debacle.

But HFCS has come under the gun by health advocates as leading to…keep beating that drum…childhood obesity. Failure to clinically prove such a connection notwithstanding, the movement toward real sugar has gained traction. Last I checked, sugars of any source are carbohydrates, and carbs pack 4 calories per gram. Most sodas have about 140 calories, meaning they have 35 grams of sugar.

Folks, the problem is not the source of the sugar. It’s the fact that it is sugar. Our teeth are rotting, and our waists expanding. Regardless.

Dr. Pepper has joined the drummers. The Dublin TX bottler uses only pure cane sugar. And earlier this summer, during the release of the 6 commemorative 125th anniversary cans, DP went nationwide in its quest to eradicate HFCS.

And Pepsi has joined the percussion party by periodically re-releasing Pepsi and Mountain Dew Throwback version, each made with…you guessed it…real sugar.

But none have had the marketing push that Sierra Mist is enjoying…a full year’s worth of advertising and promotion packed into the next three months.

All to convince us that this soda is natural. Oooh.

The very word “natural” is dangerous from a marketing perspective, because it implies that something else is unnatural. As in everything else you make. But this comes at a time when consumers are indeed switching to other beverages, because they have swallowed the hook, line and sinker about the dangers of HFCS. That’s like switching from Marlboro to Marlboro Light. Keep smoking, and just pretend it isn’t killing you.

These are desperate times for soft drink manufacturers, and desperate times require desperate reactions. Just don’t expect me to drop what I am doing tomorrow to run to Walmart. My allergies are killing me, and I’m still waiting for someone to send me some Kleenex.

Dr “All Natural” Gerlich




One response

9 10 2010

Save your gas. The new Sierra Mist “Natural” sucks. It tastes like fake sugar and medicine. The could gave me a case and I wouldn’t take it.

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