Diet Coke today introduced the biggest product and marketing makeover in its 36-year history as it looks to regain momentum in the struggling diet soda category by more aggressively targeting millennials. Changes include a logo redesign and four new flavored varieties, such as "twisted mango," that will be sold in slim cans.
The overhaul, shown in this Coca-Cola-produced video, is backed by an aggressive marketing campaign by Anomaly featuring the tagline "because I can" that seeks to inject Diet Coke with a new swagger and grow the brand beyond its loyalist following of female baby boomers.
Ads starting later this month will feature a blend of male and female celebrities and influencers. But the spots steer clear of A-list pop stars like Taylor Swift that have backed the brand in the past. Instead, Diet Coke will use the likes of Karan Soni, an Indian-American actor known for playing a supporting role in "Deadpool." The intent is to keep the focus on the product.
"It used to be that Diet Coke was very glossy … superficial, skewing female," says Rafael Acevedo, Coca-Cola North America's group director for Diet Coke. The new marketing will be "more authentic," he adds, "and is a lot more gender neutral and diverse."
Notably, the refresh will not include a formula change, beyond the edition of the the four new flavors, which also include "feisty cherry," "zesty blood orange" and "ginger lime."
Diet Coke's overhaul is two years in the making. The brand ran focus groups with more than 10,000 people across the country and tested more than 30 potential flavor combinations, including several with tropical, citrus and botanical flavor notes. The process was driven by a desire to find varieties that match the affinity of younger consumers to bold flavors, evidenced by the rise of hoppy craft beers and spicy sauces. The strangest combination Coke tested might have been one combining tea flavors with spicy peppermint. Other flavors that did not make the cut include lemon lavender tea, mojito, oro blanco grapefruit, chili lime and watermelon jaleneno.
Diet Coke executives refer to the new can shape as "sleek." The 12-ounce cans, which are the same format now used by Coke-owned Dasani sparkling water, are meant to give Diet Coke a more contemporary feel. However, Diet Coke will also keep its traditional packaging formats like the shorter, fatter 12-ounce cans.
The new logo features a vertical stripe that Coke executives call a "High Line" that is meant to represent motion. It will be used across all communication, including digital and outdoors ads. Coke's in-house team designed the logo with help from a London-based agency called Kenyon Weston.
Executives declined to reveal what the overhaul cost or the size of the media budget. But the new look and flavors will get significant support, including a sizeable TV buy during the Winter Olympics. The new tagline replaces the "Get a Taste" line that debuted as part of a campaign from Droga5 that launched in 2014.
Diet Coke went directly after baby boomers when it arrived on shelves in 1982. At the time, the demographic, covering people born between born between 1946 and 1964, was "getting 20 years older and 20 pounds heavier," Coke states in this history of the brand on its corporate blog. "We had an in-depth knowledge of our target consumer and the issue of weight in America," Jack Carew, who led the original Diet Coke project, states in the piece. "It all added up to a total impression of a better experience in the diet segment than the consumer had been getting."
Read the full story on the overhaul and see how Diet Coke's look has changed over the years here.