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A Lesson in Generational Marketing Missteps

Feb 11, 2009

Hey, remember OK Soda? Yeah, me neither. Ironically OK Soda was Coka Cola’s attempt to “market aggresively” to my generation (generation X) in the mid-90’s. You can read a lot more about OK Soda in it’s wikipedia entry. The story of OK Soda reads like a how-not-to case study for generational marketing.

“OK Soda was intentionally marketed at the difficult Generation X and Generation Y markets, and attempted to cash in on the group’s existing disillusionment and disaffection with standard advertising campaigns; the concept was that the youth market was already aware that they were being manipulated by mass-media marketing, so this advertising campaign would just be more transparent about it.”

Coke basically distilled an entire generation down to a series of stereotypes and created a product around that and it fell flat. This got me very curious, what insights did Coke’s marketing team have about Generation X? You can gleam some of it in their product’s “manifesto”:

1. What’s the point of OK? Well, what’s the point of anything?
2. OK Soda emphatically rejects anything that is not OK, and fully supports anything that is.
3. The better you understand something, the more OK it turns out to be.
4. OK Soda says, “Don’t be fooled into thinking there has to be a reason for everything.”
5. OK Soda reveals the surprising truth about people and situations.
6. OK Soda does not subscribe to any religion, or endorse any political party, or do anything other than feel OK.
7. There is no real secret to feeling OK.
8. OK Soda may be the preferred drink of other people such as yourself.
9. Never overestimate the remarkable abilities of “OK” brand soda.
10. Please wake up every morning knowing that things are going to be OK.

Pretty heavy handed I would say. Personally as a gen-x soda drinker I’m pretty underwhelmed by a product called “OK”, why not call it “Mediocre” or just “Meh”. But I think the real reason it failed was its suspicious use of unnecessary quotation marks in the tag line on the can: A carbonated “beverage”. I’m not drinking anything that can only loosely be called a “beverage”.