Now that every man, woman, and child can create their own media, and even their own media platforms, it’s not surprising that consumer brands are also creating their own platforms. So when you read that Sprite is createing a social networking platform for mobile phones, you have to smack your forehead and say, well, of course!
Sprite Yard, to be introduced in the United States this month, will look a lot like the social networking sites that have become popular on the Internet. Consumers will be able to set up personal profiles, share photos and chat online with friends, all using cellphones rather than computer screens.
Just for fun, let’s deconstruct some of the assumptions behind this:
“Being with them on their mobile phones is absolutely essential,” said Mr. Greatrex at a news conference yesterday. Sprite, he said, is “trying to establish an omnipresent, on-the-go, everywhere relationship with teens.”
Should a soda brand aim to have a “relationship” with its consumers? Does hosting a social network where people create relationships consitute having a relationship with those people?
Sprite marketers say their soda is particularly popular with teenagers, but it follows six other soft drinks in terms of sales across the general population, according to Beverage Digest. As more consumers drink water, teas and energy drinks instead of soda, Coca-Cola has been looking for innovative ways to generate loyalty, said John Sicher, editor and publisher of Beverage Digest.
Right, so people are becoming more health conscious — let’s enable their social networking on the go so that they will be motivated to go back to drinking more carbonated sugar water. Can’t argue with that logic.
But Coke could see trouble if teenagers run up high data charges on their phones using Sprite Yard, said Jonathan Sackett, chief digital officer at Arnold Worldwide, an agency that is part of Havas.
Great, so they’ll have less money to spend on soda.
Advertising executives said that Coca-Cola could have a hard time creating a popular site even in the new mobile world. Facebook, for example, will be a competitor with a mobile version of its site.
Facebook vs. Sprite? Hmmm…kind of like Coke vs. Pepsi.
OK, enough fun at Coke-Cola’s expense. At least they’re trying new things. And social networking is, along with search, one of the defining platforms of digital media.
But if I were a soft drink company looking strategically at mobile phones, I’d be thinking a little more pragmatically, e.g. ads at point of purchase — maybe vending machines that offer discounts if you text them? Who knows — but I bet there are better ways to spend those technology R&D dollars than building a social network for soda.