Drinking to Coke
COCA-COLA seems to have carved a strong niche for itself in Malaysia.
The brown, fizzy drink teenagers so love to gulp down was in April voted
Malaysians’ favourite in a survey conducted by Reader’s Digest. In fact,
the company was awarded the Platinum SuperBrand title, its third
consecutively, which means that it is placed three times ahead of its
Coke, as it is often called, has time and again been voted the top soft-
drink brand both locally and internationally.
And the people behind it say it’s all thanks to marketing. `One hundred
per cent of Coke’s success is due to marketing,’ says Shakir Moin,
marketing director of Coca-Cola Far East Ltd. `Marketing transforms a
product into a brand.’
Coca-Cola’s Southeast and West Asia division, which includes Malaysia
and 11 other countries, was top performer for the company for 2000. Growth
across the division accelerated from three per cent in the first quarter
to 15 per cent in the fourth. Average growth for the second, third and
fourth quarters was 12 per cent.
More recently, in August, Coca-Cola was rated the world’s most valuable
brand in a study conducted by BusinessWeek magazine and New York marketing
consultancy Interbrand Corp.
Despite all these successes, the soft-drink company is not letting up on
its marketing efforts, which are mostly directed at the below- 30s.
`The Coca-Cola brand is 115 years young,’ says Shakir. `People will find
it hard to relate unless we keep the brand young, dynamic and fresh.’ The
company, he says, strives to connect with the various age groups and build
up on what has been done.
Coca-Cola, first introduced in Malaysia (then Malaya) in 1936, believes
strongly in the localisation of its brand. This has been duly reflected in
its advertisements and campaigns.
In 1998, for example, the company launched a television commercial
titled `Charity’ for the fasting month. The Malaysian-created ad, going
along the lines of love, charity and forgiveness. showed in 20 Islamic
When Malaysia was facing an economic slowdown and sales were slow, Coca-
Cola undertook a consumer survey and found that its mainly-teen customers
were a stressed-out bunch. Hence, the well-known `Chup Coca-Cola’ campaign
`Teens wanted a break from the heightened daily stresses,’ says Shakir.
`We played with bright, harsh lighting in our commercials to convey that
stress and uneasiness.’ The ad projected Coca-Cola as the welcomed and
refreshing break teenagers were seeking.
When the economy took an upswing in 2000, the company launched its
`Coca-Cola Enjoy’ campaign, depicting the post-recession Malaysian way of
life, complete with pasar malam scenes and such.
Then in 2001, as teens gravitated toward information technology, Coca-
Cola had its `Wire Your World’ campaign.
Now, the Malaysian company is riding along with its parent company’s
`Life Tastes Good’ campaign. One foreign magazine describes the slogan as
`nothing more than an unmemorable, syrupy tagline’. However, Shakir is
convinced that this campaign is true to the Malaysian way and makes sense
`People have experiences that are related to Coke,’ he says. `Coke
always becomes part of a story of everyday life and people.’
Coca-Cola’s community projects, such as its World Youth Programme, have
brought Malaysian teenagers to pop concerts, football matches and Olympic
Games around the world – experiences that Shakir believe would impact
positively on the youths’ perception of Coca-Cola. The company continues
to reach out to young people every two weeks, directly or via researchers,
`We want to connect with teenagers,’ says Shakir. `We’re constantly
evolving with consumer trends.’
Despite all these, Shakir maintains that Coca-Cola doesn’t have a huge
advertising budget. `We’re not major spenders in advertising. We spend
smart,’ he says. The key, he adds, is to know what one’s brand stands for
and to match the architecture of the brand with the leanings of the
consumers. `We have to know what consumers want.’
Sceptics would question whether Coca-Cola could hang on to its numero
uno position, but Shakir is unperturbed. `We’re ahead of our nearest
competitor three to one in terms of sales,’ he says. `Now, we’re only
competing against ourselves.’
According to the company’s 2000 annual report, Malaysia contributed less
than five per cent in terms of total unit case sales in the Asia Pacific
Coca-Cola’s products are bottled by F&N Coca-Cola (M) Sdn Bhd at five
production facilities including a RM160 million plant in Shah Alam. The
company has invested more than US$61 million in its Malaysian bottling
operations and marketing over the last five years.
The Coca-Cola company product range in Malaysia includes Coca- Cola, Diet
Coke, Sprite, Aquarius drinking water, Schweppes Mixers (Tonic Water, Soda
Water, Ginger Ale and Bitter Lemon) and Schweppes Citrus Coolers
(Grapefruit, Lime and Lemon). Other products, available overseas, include
Minute Maid orange juice, Heaven and Earth Chinese Tea and Georgia Coffee.
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