Alexa Helps Energize a New Kind of Coke

Patrycja Malinowska
Director, Member Content, P2PI
Patrycja Malinowska profile picture

Coca-Cola Co. entered the U.S. energy drink market with the Jan. 20 launch of Coke Energy, for the first time giving its flagship brand name to a beverage that is not a soft drink.

Boasting some three times as much caffeine as traditional Coke plus guarana extract and B-vitamins, Coke Energy rolled out in regular and cherry flavors, also with zero-sugar varieties of both. It is sold in skinny, 12-ounce cans depicting black waves on Coke’s approachable red (or purple, for cherry SKUs) background.

Coke enlisted Amazon and its Alexa voice assistant to help energize the launch, first at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas and then with its largest single-day sampling program ever the morning after the Super Bowl. At CES, which ran Jan. 7-10, Coke made an interactive splash with an “Energy Wall” powered by Alexa, at which attendees could say “Alexa, order Coca-Cola Energy” to get the assistant to dispense a free can of the energy drink and maybe crack a joke between vending.

During the Super Bowl on Feb. 2, Coke ran a 60-second spot titled “Show Up” that had film director Martin Scorsese texting actor Jonah Hill from a costume party and asking him not to stand him up. Hill picked up a Coke Energy to give him the stamina to attend. The next day, the brand brought the Alexa-powered energy wall to fuel commuters in New York’s Grand Central Terminal while Amazon Treasure Trucks dispensed Coke Energy across 29 additional cities.

For a very limited time, Alexa users at home reportedly could also get up to two free sample cans shipped to them by using the same voice command that works with the wall. In emails to registered reward members, Coca-Cola additionally plugged an instant-win game awarding 9,864 $2 gift cards (fulfilled as a digital code). The giveaway ran from Jan. 7 to March 3 on the brand’s website. Southfield, Michigan-based HelloWorld handled the execution.

Initially only offering a 24-pack that wasn’t eligible for free Prime delivery (although that later changed) and unlikely to have facilitated personal sampling, Coke’s experiential efforts and Alexa integration nevertheless served to not only support the launch but also to provide a call to action that got the brand on shoppers’ voice-powered lists.

The manufacturer is also targeting physical shopping carts, securing secondary merchandising space across retail channels via a variety of temporary displays, all reflecting the brand creative and employing a unified slogan: “The New Taste of Energy.”

Walmart stocks the cans in Action Alley on a custom, half-pallet dump bin that builds on the brand slogan to boldly introduce the drink as “The energy you want. The taste you love.” Price header cards support. The SKUs are also stocked in-line in Walmart’s beverage aisle and in coolers at checkout. Additional activity is expected when the mass merchant conducts its modular reset in the spring.

At Target, the cans sit on a power wing in the grocery department. Midwestern mass merchant Meijer and supermarkets such as Ahold Delhaize’s Giant-Carlisle and Stop & Shop as well as Albertsons’ Vons make room for tall red floorstands outfitted with bold can-cutout header cards to stock the beverage near store entrances as well as in the aisles. Some locations position case stacks near checkout registers. Regional grocer ShopRite also stocks cases on its Coca-Cola beverage endcap alongside other SKUs from the manufacturer.

Walgreens merchandises the new SKUs on a shorter floorstand positioned near checkout, while rival drugstore chain CVS positions them on the power wing of a Coca-Cola endcap.

Coca-Cola has additionally leveraged social media to amplify the launch nationally with a #ShowUp hashtag encouraging conversations around the theme. Social support from retailers has included a Jan. 26 Facebook update from Jewel-Osco announcing Coke Energy as new at the chain.

The beverage manufacturer is also pursuing other innovation to broaden its portfolio as consumer preferences, lifestyles and tastes splinter. The brand last fall launched a limited-time cinnamon Coke flavor and in February rolled out cherry vanilla and its zero-calorie version. In March, the company’s new caffeinated flavored seltzer water brand AHA also hits shelves.