Editor's Note: The following is a guest post from Lou Jordano, CMO at Crimson Hexagon with more than 20 years of experience building and leading high impact teams within global enterprises and startups.
The diet version of the fizzy, dark brown drink has become much-maligned by consumers in recent years. While it contains zero sugar and calories, health experts warn of negative health effects like artificial sweeteners’ links to diabetes and stroke. Consumers are increasingly swapping diet sodas for seltzer to get the same refreshing carbonation without the adverse health effect.
While Lacroix and Polar Seltzer are becoming more popular among millennials, Diet Coke is trying to get its mojo back. The brand launched four new flavors with a new can design in January 2018, which has already propelled Diet Coke back into the hearts of some consumers. In Q1 2018, Diet Coke reported its first sales volume growth since 2010. Additionally, our analysis shows that the new flavors are drawing a younger crowd.
Clearly, something is working in Diet Coke’s new strategy. But is it enough to fuel a Diet Coke resurgence? How are consumers discussing Diet Coke online? We looked at the Diet Coke conversation online to figure out what is resonating with consumers, and which consumers.
Bubbling to the top
We looked at the conversation about Coke and Diet Coke as well as seltzer brands LaCroix and Polar Seltzer from 2010 to 2018. Coke consistently has the highest share of voice — reasonable given its status as a staple in American culture. Diet Coke had the second highest share of voice, remaining quite consistent throughout the years, but growing slightly from 7% in 2017 to 9% in 2018. The most significant growth trend, however, is LaCroix’s.
The discussion about Diet Coke’s flavors was practically nonexistent until the four new flavors (Feisty Cherry, Ginger Lime, Twisted Mango and Zesty Blood Orange) were unveiled in January, indicating that people were not actively anticipating or discussing the possibility of new flavors before the brand rolled them out. Though talk about the four new varieties trailed off after they were unveiled, the new flavors conversation encompasses a small share of voice of the overall Diet Coke discussion.
What are the most favored flavors?
Some of the new Diet Coke flavors are more popular than others. Feisty Cherry is the most popular flavor, with 38% share of voice. People discussed Feisty Cherry to compare it to Diet Cherry Coke. With 27% share of the conversation, Twisted Mango is the second most discussed flavor. Many expressed surprise over how the taste exceeded their expectations. Others were just intrigued by the unconventional flavor choice. Ginger Lime closely followed Twisted Mango, encompassing 23% share of voice, generating hype for its spicy flavor. The least popular flavor is Zesty Blood Orange, with just 12%. However, many responded positively to Zesty Blood Orange, especially as a mixer for cocktails.
Zesty Blood Orange may be the least discussed flavor, but it was also the most positively discussed. Consumers said that the taste resembled oranges and that it was refreshing. Negative responses included that it left a burning aftertaste.
Twisted Mango had the second highest positive sentiment, with 71% positive. Consumers praised the unique taste. Many had low expectations for the flavor, but were impressed by how good it tasted. However, the flavor was not for everyone: some likened it to an air freshener.
Ewww. Ewww. I caved into @DietCoke advertisements about the new flavored ones. The “Twisted Mango” tastes like air freshener ????— Sherlocked Nerd (@SherlockedNerd) February 4, 2018
Ginger lime at 69% positive sentiment. While some consumers liked the zingy taste, others said the lime overpowered the ginger.
The most discussed, but most negative flavor, Feisty Cherry, had 58% positive sentiment. While some liked the revamped cherry flavor and how it paired well with Jack, others found the taste comparable to cough syrup.
Diet Coke Feisty Cherry, for when you want an aggressive cough syrup aftertaste pic.twitter.com/wV9Y3hKiEN— Andre Segers (@AndreSegers) April 15, 2018
Soda Fountain of Youth
The gender demographics for Coke, Diet Coke and Diet Coke New Flavors are comparable: all are pretty evenly split between female and male audiences.
However, the key difference is in the age range. Coke’s audience is the youngest. However, Diet Coke New Flavors is attracting conversation from a slightly younger audience than the overall Diet Coke conversation. While 65% of those discussing Diet Coke are 35 and above, that number is 62% for Diet Coke New Flavors.
Looking at the interests of those discussing Coke and Diet Coke, Diet Coke attracts a more politically conscious and “progressive” crowd, indicated by interests in progressive politics and health care.
Diet Coke’s new flavors are a hit with consumers, with sentiment for all of the flavors mainly positive. Now the company has reached a crossroads. Can it keep up with the volume of sales growth attributed to the exciting new flavors that appeal to millennials? Or will it fall to the wayside again and let seltzer dominate? By looking at the online conversation, brands can understand what is resonating with consumers, and who the consumers are.