In this case, Coke clearly isn’t it

The Wall Street Journal ran a fascinating story the other day that would be absolutely hilarious if it wasn’t so sad from an image and reputation standpoint.

Here’s the deal: a couple of enterprising entrepreneurs cum inventors came up with the idea of tossing Mentos tablets into bottles of Diet Coke. The immediate result is to create a geyser of fizz that skyrockets some 20-feet into the air! How cool is that? Anyway, videos of Diet Coke bottles going off like Mt. Vesuvius have been spreading around the Internet faster than the recent ear and throat infection that waylaid a large percentage of our agency’s staff.

To their credit, Mentos is making the most of the buzz (fizz?) from the viral spectacle and absolutely loves the 800 or so different videos of the Mentos-Diet Coke eruption. Pete Healey, their U.S. marketing head, says the ‘free publicity’ is equivalent to over $10 million in advertising (note: in my book, it’s worth a whole lot more than that since it’s an opt-in, viral campaign that is being passed along solely by word-of-mouth).

Now, here’s the downer. Diet Coke ain’t happy. In fact, Coke spokeswoman Susan McDermott said, ‘We would hope people would want to drink Diet Coke more than try experiments with it.’ She also says the "craziness of Mentos doesn’t fit with the brand personality" of Diet Coke. Gimme a break. This is potentially a huge marketing bonanza for Diet Coke if they’d only loosen the corporate sphincter muscle a little and think outside the box (the bottle?).

Mentos gets it and is about to consummate a marketing deal with the two men responsible for one of the more elaborate videos (these particular guys used 101 two-liter bottles of Diet Coke and 523 Mentos to create a dancing fountain like the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas. Here’s the video:

Viral, word-of-mouth marketing is here to stay and certainly what the future will be all about. Consumers decide what’s hip, cool and funny. Not marketers. Mentos gets it. Diet Coke doesn’t. Maybe the latter needs to mix in a little Rum and enjoy the buzz (and subsequent sales).

7 thoughts on “In this case, Coke clearly isn’t it

  1. Someone should write a blog and entitle it, ‘The digital education of Susan McDermott.’ Talk about a painful learning lesson.

  2. Although Coke may not “get it,” they are clearly benfitting from the buzz of the Mentos/Diet Coke experiment.
    Check out the blog posts that contain Diet Coke And Mentos per day for the last 30 days:
    Just think of how many people rushed out to purchase 2-liter Diet Coke bottles to try this little trick.
    Perhaps when the sales figures come in, Susan McDermott will wake up and realize power of WOM and viral marketing.

  3. Canada has a military? I knew of the Mountiees…but a real military? They better start with more than just blogs!
    Wonder what types of jokes or snickering McDermott is hearing about the offices at Coca-Cola. Would love to be a fly on the wall there…

  4. Jimbo, you in turn, hit the nail on the head. Diet Coke is totaly missing an opportunity to connect with the digital generation. To that end, I was talking with a Canadian military public affairs officer after my Niagara Falls speech yesterday. He confided that the military just didn’t know how to use blogging and were concerned about recently returning veterans posting comments about their overseas experiences on the web (and unknowingly sharing proprietary information with the enemy). I agreed with him that too much information in their case could be a bad thing. Instead, I suggested he/they use blogging as a new and more relevant recruiting tool with which to connect with the digital generation. He seemed to like that idea. Funny how a military guy would be open to digital ideas while a Diet Coke marketing “expert” dismisses the Mentos opportunity because it doesn’t reflect the product’s brand attributes.

  5. Susan McDermott needs to add the “freshmaker” to her diet. The craziness of Mentos? Geez, so they’ve produced some silly commercials that remind a viewer of some dubbed foriegn movie with cheesy guys chasing cute girls. A polar bear playing with Santa and drinking Coke seems more crazy on the surface, doesn’t it?
    You nailed it with consumers deciding on what is cool and hip. Having a 10 year old daughter, I have seen some crazy candies, drinks, and such come and go. Kids like them, then they don’t because something cool and new has come along. And, it’s not always “just for the taste of it.”
    This is a chance for Coke to align itself with the digital generation and accept this play.
    That second video was impressive. I like the movement some are taking with their advertising…cutting long-lasting relationships and finding talent and new ideas from unconventional sources.