A recent article in AdvertisingAge discusses how the sales of carbonated soft drinks have been slumping and are now at 1996 levels. Aside from the increased awareness of health risks from excessive soda consumption, we think the other big factor in slowing sales of carbonated soft drinks is boredom. For established companies like Coca Cola and PepsiCo, soda is their oldest product line and the taste of the primary offerings hasn’t changed much for ages. In the days of comparatively “high-tech” sports beverages, energy drinks, and vitamin water, soda is just not sexy anymore. When was the last time you actually tasted a soda that you wanted to tell others about?
We think social games for mobile users can help address this issue and make soda exciting again. The key is to change the consumer perception that soda is mundane. Much like the wine industry has done, the soda companies need to emphasize taste. They don’t need to change the taste, necessarily, but rather educate people about trying soda with all sorts of different food products. Every combination of a soda and a food product can potentially create a new and exciting taste that will transform enjoyment of both products. Pepsi, Coke, or other soft drink makers could try a mobile social game campaign like this:
– Develop a simple, mobile compatible Facebook game that recommends food products that pair well with different types and brands of soda, and allows consumers to make their own recommendations.
– Put a QR code linking to the social game on every bottle of soda that is produced.
– Run a real world campaign with prizes to encourage soda consumers to scan the QR code and find out which food product goes well with a given bottle of soda.
– Encourage consumers to share their findings on Facebook so their friends can also play with the app and invent new combinations of soda and food products to share.
– Consumers coming up with the top product combinations will win prizes.
The key takeaway from this mobile social gaming experiment is that perceptions can be changed through new discoveries made through social media, even for consumer staples that don’t change very often. People love to create new combinations, and soda companies can leverage audience expertise to make their products more appealing. So go out and pick up a bottle of soda and try it with your favorite chocolate. You may very well be on your way to discovering the next exciting taste!