Consumers see red over Coke’s white can campaign

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Consumers see red over Coke’s white can campaign

Related tags: Coca-cola

Coca-Cola is switching back to iconic red for its Classic Coke cans just one month after introducing white cans as part of a holiday season campaign, following consumer complaints that they had confused the sugar-containing version with Diet Coke.

The company said on October 25 that it intended to roll out 1.4bn of the white cans and they would appear in store until February. The white cans, which were launched as part of a campaign partnership with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) “in celebration of the polar bear”, started appearing on shelves about two weeks ago.

This is the first time Coca-Cola has been sold in white cans, but some consumers found the cans too similar to the company’s silver Diet Coke cans and many complained that they had accidentally bought regular Coke instead of the low-calorie version. It has now redesigned its holiday cans, reverting to Classic Coca-Cola red, while including the polar bears in white around the base of the can. As of December 2, only the red version will be dispatched.

The company has not explicitly said that consumer confusion is the reason it is cutting short the white can campaign, but it has released a fact sheet​ detailing “some key visual elements that clearly distinguish these new white "Arctic Home" Coke cans from our silver Diet Coke "Holiday" cans”​, such as the presence of polar bears on the full-calorie version, as opposed to snowflakes on the diet version, and differences in front-of-pack calorie labeling.

Many internet comments have criticized the white cans.

“My world has been officially turned upside down by these confusing white Coke cans,”​ one Twitter user complained.

Another tweeted: “Hard to believe Coca-Cola marketing execs couldn’t see this one coming.”

As part of its holiday campaign, Coca-Cola has donated $2m toward WWF’s efforts to protect polar bear habitats, and has pledged up to another $1m to match donations made online and via text message.

Related topics: Food labeling and marketing, Markets

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