What Branding Experts Think About Coca-Cola’s New Product-Centric Campaign: ‘Taste the Feeling’ replaces ‘Open Happiness’

Today, Coca-Cola unveiled a new campaign and traded its 7-year-old slogan, “Open Happiness,” for “Taste the Feeling,” as part of chief marketing officer Marcos de Quinto’s plan to unite the company’s brands globally. With that reveal came 25 new ads which lean heavily on the product itself, another facet of the new strategy.

Coca-Cola will position its various brands—Diet Coke and Coke Zero, for instance—within a “one brand” approach, all featuring the “Taste the Feeling” tagline, de Quinto revealed today at a press event. It marks the first time the beverage giant’s brands have used one cohesive marketing strategy.

Here’s what branding experts, who see it as Coca-Cola’s attempt to get back to basics and remind consumers that Coca-Cola is synonymous with refreshment, had to say:

“From outside the industry, you look at a shift from ‘Open Happiness’ to ‘Taste the Feeling,’ and it doesn’t seem like a huge shift really—but it really is,” said Adam Padilla, CEO of consultancy Brandfire. “It’s a philosophical shift [for Coca-Cola], and it ushers in a new era where de Quinto seems to be prepping Coca-Cola to make some bold moves.”

“Open Happiness” was successful in making consumers “feel something,” Padilla said. “But it got away from the actual product in the can, in the bottle. When you start to float too far away from your product offering, it gets too philosophical. … ‘Open Happiness’ could be said about a lot of things, when you open anything. But when you talk about ‘Taste the Feeling,’ you have very strong connectivity with a feeling with Coke, and you also have the literal aspect of tasting it—the taste of happiness.”

Erich Joachimsthaler, CEO and founder of Vivaldi Partners Group, a global brand-strategy consulting firm, agreed. “The more you intellectualize and conceptualize what Coke is all about, [the more you move away from the product],” said Joachimsthaler. “What Coke is doing now is bringing it back and saying, at the end of the day, Coke is still a refreshment.”

That thinking aligns with what de Quinto had to say about the new brand strategy. “We want to help remind people why they love the product as much as they love the brand,” said de Quinto in a statement. “We’re going from ‘Open Happiness’ to exploring the role Coca-Cola plays in happiness. We make simple, everyday moments more special.”

The new strategy may also help the brand win over younger consumers.

“Young people want to feel part of a global society, and they’re looking for brands that can help them participate in one,” said Joseph Anthony, founder and CEO of millennial-focused branding firm Hero Group. “This will do very well in creating equity for Coke as an enabler, someone who empowers consumers to feel part of a global conversation and community. It’s a good blueprint for other big brands to follow.”

But the new product-centric focus also puts the brand in a tricky spot, according to Geoff Cook, founding partner of Base Design, an international strategic branding firm. As Coca-Cola tries to draw attention back to its products, more people are looking to consume healthier products, something that has dinged the brand for years.

“Coca-Cola is in one of the more unique positions that I’ve ever seen: The brand is revered, and the product is increasingly reviled,” said Cook. “Brand strategies or tactics can deflect from larger issues, but fundamentally, … there’s been a shift toward more healthful living. And until they actively change the product [to be healthier] and change the public’s perception of the product, the new branding initiatives will ring hollow.”

Article written by: Kristina Monllos