Jon Christoph Berndt®

Brand Identity

Why Coca-Cola Can Not Do Bionade

In 2005 Coca-Cola wanted to buy Bionade, a large independent German player in the soft-drinks market. But the underdog with the hip brand identity turned them down. Three years later, Coca-Cola launched its own hip lemonade "Spirit of Georgia"—also in a glass bottle, also free of artificial flavors, also made from a fermentate. It went badly: the Coca-Cola brand identity simply does not fit.

Spirit of Georgia was a terrific failure—because the manufacturer’s brand identity simply did not fit. Even though the name conjures images of summer, Southern States, sun, and convertibles, it somehow does not provide any insight into the consistent brand concept: kinda like Bionade, but not really, kinda like Coca-Cola, but not really. The healthy lemonade from Coca-Cola is suspect, and the rebellious approach taken by Bionade did not work here at all. Consumers may be ignorant about where their commodities come from, but they are not damn stupid.

Anyone who thinks they can do without the power of a coherent brand identity needs excellent instincts. They also need the ability to make good, fast gut decisions; even when sales go into decline, profits fall, emotions come into play, the next generation wants to take over and do everything completely differently … All this all too quickly turns into too many variables and uncertainties. Here, a clear basis for decision making, built on facts, factors, and parameters as well as on beliefs, is the better approach—the brand identity. When done right, the rational brand identity and the emotional aspects work well together and lead to long-term success.

If a company has a strong brand identity, the brand essence and the ultimate benefits are precisely defined, as well as the brand values, the unique selling point, and the value proposition. To achieve this and the implementation and ongoing maintenance of the brand identity, the company cooperates with a specialized consultancy. This ensures that the brand building process is free of blind spots and tunnel vision. The experts see the company with more critical eyes and have the necessary distance to raise bold and uncomfortable questions—those need to be asked in order to find the equally bold and uncomfortable answers.