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).