With the emphasis on ‘zero’

Andrew at Definition Britain has a post about Coke Zero, so called because that’s how many people buy it. Seriously, sales of Coke Zero are falling after the initial launch buzz.

It wasn’t as if Coke Zero seemed to be selling very well anyway. Coke Zero launched just before I started working at Woolworths. What was notable was just how much of this Coke Zero (which I had never heard of) was lying in the stock room. We couldn’t bring them up because they simply weren’t selling.

Coca-Cola really messed it up if you ask me. A lot of people thought that Coke Zero was actually replacing Diet Coke! It’s not — it’s just Coke’s version of Pepsi Max (only about ten years after Pepsi Max launched). Funny how Coke decided to call theirs ‘Zero’ while Pepsi’s is ‘Max’. I see that the new Pepsi Max adverts are making fun of this.

Anyway, Coke Zero was designed to be a drink that appealed to men because Coke has become too closely associated with women. So say surveys and whatnot, apparently. It’s true though. Everybody remembers those Diet Coke adverts with those women cooing over a builder taking his shirt off. The advert was so strong that the whole Coke brand has become girly.

Normal Coca-Cola just about escapes. At around the same time as the famous Diet Coke adverts, normal Coca-Cola was all “Eat football, sleep football, drink Coca-Cola”. Nobody was really convinced, but at least it provided distance from that awful Diet Coke campaign.

But when I first saw Coke Zero I thought, “That must be aimed at women.” This was despite the distinctly non-girly packaging and the (awful) adverts with blokes talking about blokey things. And this is the worst bit of all about Coke Zero. The adverts are possibly among the worst I have ever seen.

“Wouldn’t it be great,” says a fictitious knuckle-dragging reader of Nuts and / or Zoo magazine who was created by a marketing man, “if you could have work without the boss?”

A banal thought. What is the point? But it doesn’t end there.

“Why don’t you get girlfriends without all the plans? Why don’t you get bras without the fumbling? Why can’t you get a holiday where you don’t have to come home?”

Yes, this is the most contrived advert I have ever seen. It is trying so hard to be blokey, but it just comes across as what it is: a really, really bad advert.

And have you ever actually met somebody who would actually say, in a normal conversation, “Great Coke taste… Zero sugar!” It couldn’t sound more like Teleshopping if it tried. Even if a normal person were to say something like that he would say, “This tastes just like Coke. And it’s got no sugar.”

I hope that Coke Zero is off our shelves very soon, just because of those terrible adverts.


  1. I’m pleased someone else noticed the Coke Zero vs. Pepsi Max thing! Coke Zero has had more money spent on it than any other brand launched by Coca Cola, and yet it isn’t doing very well, as you point out with the Woolies example. Coke are desparately trying to get retailers on board with promos etc, but I think you hit the nail on the head when you say that Coke has generally become a bit too girly.

  2. Ha ha! One of my old contempories from Edinburgh Uni’s Bedlam Theatre is on that advert. He’s the skinny one whose mobile phone goes off. He used to be — still is, in fact — in a sketch group, called Navelgazing, with Macca (another Bedlamite), who played Big Keith in The Office…


  3. Coke Zero to go the way of Tab Clear?

    I don’t have a problem with drinking Coke though, not even Diet. In fact, I never have non-diet ones….. unless I’m in a pub. You just can’t ask for diet coke in a pub without feeling like a complete tit. Which gives me an excuse just to have another beer instead.

  4. Could the fact that Coke Zero truly taste awful have something to do with the fact that it is not selling? I had a party a while ago and someone brought a few cans of Coke Zero (cheapskate!), and most of them are still using space in my fridge. I am a normal Coke drinker, and have always prefered it over Pepsi, but, since I had a few cans of Coke Zero, I thought I’d give that a go… I didn’t even drink three sips of it it was so awful.