Coke, marketing, and minorities
June 8, 2012 3 Comments
Really interesting piece in the Post about a former Coke marketing executive who now greatly regrets his former work. The key to Coke strategy during his time was not market share, but “share of stomach.” Coke was simply trying to supply more and more of the liquids that people drink. Apparently it was considered a great day when they surpassed milk in the American diet. Anyway, this one bit really bothered me:
Putman, whose positions at Coca-Cola included U.S. head of marketing for carbonated drinks, said in the interview that among his achievements was tailoring the company’s national advertising campaigns to specific groups. The approach helped Coca-Cola intensify marketing to target audiences such as African Americans and Hispanics.
“It was just a fact that Hispanics and African Americans have higher per capita consumption of sugar-based soft drinks than white Americans,” he said. “We knew that if we got more products into those environments those segments would drink more.”
Today that work is one of Putman’s greatest regrets. Statistics consistently show that the incidence of obesity is highest among minorities. The higher price and relative scarcity of many healthier alternatives to soda in low-income communities — as well as the lack of marketing to promote those that are available — effectively mean that low income minorities have fewer choices, Putman said. [emphasis mine]“The game is rigged by the power of the soft drink industry and how much money they put against all the competition in that space.”
Now I have no doubt that all this marketing led to an increased share of stomach among minorities, but please, let’s not remove all sense of personal agency here. I just don’t really buy the emboldened bit above. What are all the healthy beverage choices I have on the beverage row of my upscale Harris Teeter in Cary that are not available in corner bodegas, etc.? They don’t sell water or milk in a corner grocery or 7-11? And one can pretty much always choose to drink water. No matter where you live or how rich you are, soft drinks always present a more tantalizing choice than water or healthier beverage options. Now maybe I have way more options of non-processed food (pretty sure that I do) and I’ll give you that, but the idea that poor/minorities have little choice but to consume Coke? I don’t think so.