Coke delivers coffee-flavored soda from Walmart by drone

Dive Brief:

  • Coca-Cola worked with retailer Walmart and drone services provider DroneUp on a stunt campaign to deliver packs of its new soda with coffee by air. The beverage maker promoted the launch of Coca-Cola with Coffee by offering drone delivery in the “buzzworthy” community of Coffee County, Georgia, on Jan. 25, per an announcement.
  • The drone delivery of Coca-Cola with Coffee and the sugar-free variant was available to select consumers who live in a single-family residence within a one-mile radius of the county’s Walmart Supercenter. That same day, people who use the Ibotta cash-back rewards app were eligible to receive a free can of Coca-Cola with Coffee at Walmart stores nationwide.
  • Automated drone delivery has been touted for years, but has faced regulatory restrictions from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Coca-Cola’s launch of its soda with coffee comes several months after Walmart began testing on-demand drone delivery in Fayetteville, North Carolina, signaling renewed interest in the distribution method that aims to save on delivery costs.

Dive Insight:

Coca-Cola’s launch of its soda with coffee is notable for including drone delivery in a stunt campaign that plays off the name of Coffee County, which is about 180 miles away from the company’s headquarters in Atlanta. The tiny robot aircraft have gained more attention since Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO, in 2013 announced the e-commerce company had been secretly testing drone delivery of packages. Meanwhile, a variety of startup companies have been developing the technology while awaiting FAA approval for automated drone flights. The agency this month approved the first commercial use of smart drones without on-site pilots or spotters, opening the door for wider adoption of the technology.

Amid the growth in e-commerce and the push to reduce delivery costs, drones are likely to gain wider adoption than what has been seen in recent stunt campaigns. Snack brand Kind last summer offered drone delivery as part of a stunt campaign for the launch of its line of frozen bars. The company hosted a contest that let three winners see the plant-based product delivered to their doorstep by trained bird, drone or hot air balloon.

The introduction of Coca-Cola with Coffee in the U.S. is a key step for the beverage brand because North America is the company’s biggest market, comprising almost a third of global sales. The U.S. is the 50th market to launch the soda with coffee after the company introduced the product in Japan in 2018. Coca-Cola’s test marketing found that more than 80% of consumers who tried Coca-Cola with Coffee would buy it, per the press announcement. More than half of Coke drinkers and coffee fans enjoy both beverages on a regular basis, its research found. The launch of the new product will be supported by a fully integrated marketing campaign that includes digital, social, outdoor, radio and TV advertising, with a mix of digital and traditional sampling.

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Coca-Cola sees zero-sugar soda with coffee as a growth area, separate from energy drinks like Red Bull and ready-to-drink (RTD) coffee beverages like those from Starbucks.

“While other categories including energy drinks have ventured into zero-sugar territory, RTD coffee hasn’t because many offerings are dairy-based,” Brandan Strickland, brand director of Coca-Cola Trademark, said in the announcement. “We see this as a major whitespace opportunity.”

Coca-Cola in December launched a full review of its media and creative planning and buying practices, including its agency appointments around the world. The beverage giant is seeking to improve effectiveness and efficiency across a range of investments, such as media, creative, production management, shopper and experiential marketing, as it works to “align the strategic, operational, and commercial needs” of its digital transformation. The process is expected to complete by the end of 2021.

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