Tom Doctoroff

Coca-Cola surprised many branding experts by launching a tin of sparkling water called ‘Valser’ to Chinese consumers for US$9. It is not impossible, says branding guru Tom Doctoroff to the South China Morning Post, but then they have to change their marketing dramatically. “Turn it into a social currency,” Doctoroff says.

The South China Morning Post:

“Turn it into a social currency.”

That’s the advice being given by one China marketing expert to Coca-Cola, as the US drinks giant launches what it is being billed as an ultra-luxurious Swiss sparkling water brand, a bottle of which costs double what a Starbucks venti cappuccino might cost.

Its “Valser” water first appeared in the US soft drinks giant’s store on Chinese online marketplace Tmall a few weeks ago, highlighting specifically that it is sourced from “Switzerland.”

But what raised many eyebrows was its price tag: a 750ml Classic bottle costs 64 yuan (US$9.29)...

“Theoretically, it is possible [to sell at that price], but you would have to make it not just about water, but also a social currency,” said Tom Doctoroff, senior partner with global marketing consultancy The Prophet, and author of book What Chinese Want: Culture and Communism

“Our water comes from The Alps, which was formed 200 million years ago,” the world’s largest beverage company said of Valser in its Chinese advertisement, adding that its source is fed from melted snow and rain that filters through glacial sand.

But other than focusing on origin, Doctoroff insists Coke should be adopting a vastly different marketing approach from what the industry is simply accustomed to.

So far Coca-Cola has opted for a group of heavyweight endorsers, among them Chinese heartthrob Lu Han, the Korean actor Park Bo-gum, even the billionaire investment tycoon Warren Buffett – but just how successful they could prove for an ultra-premium, ultra-pricey Swiss bottled water remains a mute point.

“The Chinese who would buy Coca-Cola’s luxury bottled water are likely to be the same group of people who are connoisseurs of Louis Vuitton handbags,” he said.

“So to help build its prestige, you need new partners, and right opinion leaders .”

More in the South China Morning Post.

Tom Doctoroff is a speaker at the China Speakers Bureau. Do you need him at your meeting or conference? Do get in touch or fill in our speakers’ request form.

Are you looking for more branding experts at the China Speakers Bureau? Do check out this list.


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