Is it surprising that “happiness” is used to advertise Coca-Cola and Lay’s potato chips, two leading brands whose product categories were recently indicted as highly correlated with long-term weight gain? I don’t think so …
Advertising is a very powerful tool for growing a business. Food and beverage manufacturers spend billions of dollars every year to peddle their brands. In 2010 Coca-Cola Co. spent $758 million to advertise its portfolio of brands while Pepsico (owner of Frito-Lay) had just over $1 Billion in ad spending [Ad Age 2010 U.S. Ad Spending and rank]. That’s a pretty sizeable chunk of change. But why do both Coca-Cola and Lay’s sell “happiness” as their respective brand’s promise?
Marketers have known for a long time that connecting a brand to a consumer on an emotional level is one of the most powerful forms of advertising. After all, once a brand has become known for certain features or product benefits, establishing a link to higher-order, emotional benefits truly moves consumers. This process (called “brand laddering”) has been used successfully to market all types of products and services.
Using Coca-Cola as an example, when Coke launched in 1886 it spent it’s early years establishing product features like “delicious” and “refreshing.” Over time that message wasn’t unique enough so Coke laddered up to slogans like “America’s favorite moment” and “The sign of good taste.” Finally, during the past several decades, Coca-Cola’s advertising has been leveraging emotional benefits like “Open Happiness.”
Beyond the shear power of emotional advertising, it also enables a brand to create a mystique that can overwhelm negative aspects of a product. For example, think back to the waning years of tobacco advertising. Most of it portrayed aspirational or emotional messages filled with vivid imagery: Marlboro with its quintessential cowboy or Vantage with groups of friends having fun “alive with pleasure.” The only features or claims that cigarettes made were “low tar” or “low nicotine.” Does that strategy sounds strangely familiar? Think low calorie – Diet Coke or low fat – Baked Lay’s.
Let’s check out some recent “happiness” ads and see what you think:
So? Pretty alluring, huh? I find it hard not to get caught up in these ads. Hopefully the Coca-Cola song won’t be stuck in your head the rest of the day!
It’s indisputable that advertising like this sells more Coca-Cola and Lay’s. Why else would they spend millions of dollars on it? The question is, since these products are linked to long-term health consequences, should brands like Coca-Cola and Lay’s be allowed to continue to advertise? Or do restrictions need to be put in place?
What do you think is the solution?