“Natural cola” – like seeing your parents on a nudist beach

Pepsi’s latest brand extension idea strikes me as a bit bizarre. Pepsi Raw will be a premium cola, with the main support for this seeming to be its more natural recipe. This recipe uses cane sugar instead of the more processed high-fructose corn syrup. Mmmm.

But if you want something more natural and/or more premium don’t you buy another type of drink? Will anyone really pay more for a less artificial cola?

What makes the Raw story all the more strange is that Pepsi have done a great job at creating a portfolio of drinks brands, including more healthy ones. They now own PJ Smoothies and Tropicana in the UK. This means they have a much lower proportion of their drinks business in cola than Coke and this is reflected in much better stock price performance over the last 5 years.

Coke seem to have the same idea of making cola healthier, with the launch of vitamin-enriched Coke. Weird huh? Again, if you want a vitamin boost would you really think of a Coke as a way of getting this? Offering Light versions of cola made sense, as it made them more "permissible". But actively promoting health benefits seems a stretch too far.

A learning from this is to be honest about who you are and celebrate this. Coke and Pepsi are about enjoyment, taste and refreshment, not health and natural-ness. Any extension should build on these truths, and not force the brand into being something it really isn’t.

Colas going healthy and natural? Its like seeing your parents on a nudist beach. It might be natural. But it just doesn’t feel right.