Tag Archives: branding

Losing My Corporate Religion: Why Coca-Cola and Alcohol Don’t Mix

In our present era of digital commercial interfaces and impersonal, transnational corporations it is often all too easy to forget that behind every company – even the biggest and the most bureaucratic – lie human beings, and that said human beings, notwithstanding the exceptional market intelligence at their fingertips, are capable of making perplexing and illogical decisions. Such was the line of thinking that our Creative Director & CSO (‘CD&CSO’) found himself being seduced by upon reading that no less an entity than Coca-Cola itself is planning to enter the alcoholic beverages business.

To be precise, Coca-Cola (Japan) Company Limited is working on an iteration of Chu-Hi, a drink containing distilled shōchū. Chu-Hi alcopops – which typically contain between 3% and 8% alcohol – is a relatively new market which has experienced between 5% and 25% year-on-year growth since 2013 within Japan. Prima facie, there would appear to be a strong case for what Jorge Garduño – president of Coca-Cola’s Japanese business unit – has termed ‘experimentation in the low-alcohol category‘.

However – and after some reflection – we at Mediolana cannot help thinking that this project is one of the most specious we have ever come across, especially given the bigger picture of the Coca-Cola Company’s recent diversification drive: the Atlanta-based soft-drinks giant is confronting a seismic shift in consumer tastes as citizens in increasingly obese populations point the stubby finger of blame at purveyors of sugar-defined sodas. Coca-Cola has therefore invested massively – with varying degrees of success – in tea and water products which enjoy an apparently more benign popular image.

But by moving into alcohol – particularly at this juncture in history – Coca-Cola risks flying from the frying pan straight into the flammable, carcinogenic liquid. The alcohol industry is confronting the kinds of challenges which make the prospect of sugar taxes and concerned parents seem like negligible irritations: alarming sales declines, complete advertising bans in certain jurisdictions and generational cultural changes which are difficult if not impossible to counter. Indeed, alcohol companies are diversifying out of their core business, which makes one wonder how and why Coca-Cola is failing to reading the broader market signals.

In any event, scoring a cheap short term hit from an alcopops line – and even the broader diversification process – are total distractions from what Coca-Cola should be doing: reconfiguring what is indubitably one of the world’s most iconic and best-loved drinks brands for the twenty-first century. Upgrading distribution and recycling channels, transitioning to organic and fairly-traded ingredients and expanding the range of Coke-themed beverages to cater to an increasingly globalised palate cannot be put on the back burner any longer; moreover, they will need every ounce of corporate muscle to be realised in what is becoming an insanely competitive space.

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The Shade of Her Parasol: Does Formula One’s Grid Girl Ban Risk Neo-Misogyny?

Regular readers of this blog will have long been aware that we at Mediolana are not an easily shocked bunch, but the news that Formula One (‘Formula 1’, ‘F1’) has abruptly terminated the presence of grid girls – promotional models who perform various logistical tasks, such as helping spectators with directions and holding umbrellas above stationary cars pre-race in the event of rain – at their events sent us into deep contemplation.

The grid girls ban –which comes into force with the start of the 2018 FIA Formula One World Championship on 25th March – comes hot on the heels of the Professional Darts Corporation’s abrogation of their utilisation of walk-on girls. But despite some apparent similarities, the two cases could scarcely be more different.

Not only are grid girls an F1 tradition which spans many decades – in contrast to their purported counterparts in darts, which are a recent innovation – but their aesthetic is a world away from the gaudy, tabloidesque presentation inflicted on females working in some other sports. Promotional models who work in Formula One convey a completely different brand proposition in which elegance and sophistication are richly in evidence. And while grid girl uniforms can vary somewhat in terms of quality, the general standard is very high indeed; some grand prix, notably those in Azerbaijan and China, have made wonderful use of local traditional fashion motifs to produce strikingly beautiful and iconic official clothing.

Moreover – and this is where it begins to get perplexing – in the context of the recent wave of sexual abuse scandals, the grid girl ban seems weirdly illogical. Most if not all promotional work undertaken by models on Formula One duty is in full public view, and nearly all said work is conducted in groups. Models who have worked in this sector aver that grid girl work is the one of the best gigs going: from the inside, there does not seem to be even a hint of complaint, let alone anything more sinister going on.

So why has this swift and unilateral commercial edict come to pass? Formula One itself claims that is has to do with ‘brand values’ and that the practice of grid girls ‘is at odds with [contemporary] societal norms’. On the latter point in particular they may be correct, and we respect the organisation’s reasoning. But the question must be asked: whose norms? Certainly not those of motor racing fans: a 12/2017 Internet poll conducted by BBC Sport found that 60% of F1 followers agreed that ‘grid girls should be part of Formula One’. And not those of the models involved, either; they are understandably furious that one of the most glamorous, interesting and lucrative professional opportunities in the field has been annulled, seemingly without so much as their being consulted.

Let us be clear: the norms which are being perpetuated by Formula One’s decision are those of the people cheering this move. These entities may be well-intentioned, but they are nevertheless spreading a perverse and soulless doctrine which results in the following:

  1. The deliberate erasure of beautiful women from public life;
  2. The de facto criminalisation of beautiful women; and
  3. The undermining of women’s rights through moral vacuity.

This last point is incredibly damaging. The ‘societal norms’ cited by Formula One are the same values which target utterly trivial matters with relentless crusades while letting gross and unforgivable abuses of women’s fundamental human rights – such as the right the life – go unchallenged indefinitely. ‘Societal norms’ which celebrate the absence of grid girls at, for example, the Mexican Grand Prix – and which are silent on the matter of narcocorridos which glorify the gruesome murder of women in that same country – are, to our mind at least, self-incriminating. They risk constituting nothing less than a form of neo-misogyny in which all women – and therefore society – are regarded as mere collateral damage.

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Wake Up and Smell the Sustainable Coffee: Millennials Demand Cleaner Supply Chains!

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Fifty Shades of Spray: Three Licensing Lessons from the Perfume Range of Zlatan Ibrahimović

With the anterior cruciate ligament injury that he sustained during Manchester United’s ultimately victorious UEFA Europa League quarter-final second leg against Belgian heavyweights Anderlecht possessing possibly career-ending properties, now is as good a time as any to consider what post-playing life might begin to look like for Zlatan Ibrahimović (‘Zlatan’, ‘Ibra’). The Swedish icon of Yugoslav descent will indubitably find himself in heavy demand within the world of football; however, whether he takes the familiar paths of management and/or punditry, or forges a yet more interesting second act – perhaps as a Trump-style, Corbyn-substance populist in politics – one thing will remain a constant in Zlatan’s life: licensing.

Ibrahimović has had an interesting collection of commercial partners from relatively early on in his career, but his status is such that in recent years he has transcended the usual celebrity endorsements of shampoos and chocolate bars, instead becoming the focus of a series of Zlatan-flavoured brands, perhaps most notably the Vitamin Well series of sports drinks – a product that he has not shied away from promoting relentlessly.

However, it is Ibrahimović’s latest venture – a line of fragrances concocted in collaboration with Montblanc perfumer Olivier Pescheux – that may turn out to be his most significant foray yet into the broader world of retail, not least because it highlights (and skilfully profits from) a number of societal transformations:

  1. The Reclassification of Football. For the overwhelming majority of its history (one or two key exceptional markets notwithstanding), soccer has been perceived as a largely working-class enterprise. The pitching of Ibrahimović’s perfumes at somewhere north of €50/50ml bottle confirms that the sport has definitively escaped these shackles.
  2. Football’s Feminisation. Ibra’s range of scents is divided neatly into two: the ‘Zlatan’ fragrance for men, and the ‘Supreme’ equivalent for women. The existence of the latter is no accident: football’s transmogrification into a markedly less violent sport from the early 1990s onwards has helped endear it to a new generation of women who are proud to wear a fashion brand co-created by a soccer player.
  3. Global Acceptance. The perfumes’ publicity material directly and prominently refers to Ibrahimović as a ‘world-renowned Swedish football player of Bosnian origin’; in a world where nationalism is gaining in political currency, realities such as this show up the limits of reactionary ideologies. Deepening globalisation is enabled by powerful borderless technologies which cannot be stopped by a wave of the legislative wand; it is essential for both individuals and organisations to contemplate the implications of this fact.

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Nothing Worth Achieving: Heineken Launches ‘Beer of the Future’!

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This Is Not Fare: Conductors Eliminated From London’s Bus Network!

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Eclipsing #London Fashion Week? A New Season Brings a New Digital Header!

As wet turns to wetter in what is still something of a global hub, we at Mediolana’s London HQ thought that it was high time to mark this seasonal switch with a new and glorious social media header. (The uninitiated can see it on our Twitter and Facebook pages, too.) It serves as a neat reminder that while the world may change beyond recognition, some constants remain – including that element of mystery. Let us know your thoughts via the usual channels. Forza!

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