By Max Rothman
Whether or not The Coca-Cola Co., Inc., is feeling the heat from a growing onslaught of detractors and health nuts, changes are afoot.
The cola giant released Canada Dry Hot Ginger Ale in Japan on Monday, according to reporter Yoriko Takahashi of Akihabara News, a Tokyo-based news site. Yes, truly, it’s a hot soda.
“Coca-Cola Japan thought that because Japan has traditional hot drinks using ginger and spices and people love them,” Takahashi writes, “why not hot Canada Dry Ginger Ale?”
Takahashi also writes that in Japan one can find hot canned coffee, tea, corn soup, sweet red-bean soup and Oden (a winter dish featuring vegetables, boiled eggs, radish and other ingredients in a soy-flavored broth), but the country has never before sold hot, canned carbonated drinks. Takahashi adds that Coke included apple and cinnamon flavors in the ginger ale to give “a more delicate feeling to the flavor.”
While not sold in the U.S., perhaps this zany release was the last straw for Alison Lewis, Coke’s senior vice president of strategic marketing. For an undisclosed reason, Lewis will leave the company at the end of the month after accepting a senior leadership role with another global organization, according to an article by Natalie Zmuda of Ad Age.
Zmuda notes that this is the second high-profile departure in recent months from Coke’s marketing team. Pio Schunker, the senior vice president of integrated marketing communications, left the company in August. His replacement has yet to be named.
In an internal announcement, Katie Bayne, the president of North America Brands for the Coca-Cola North America Group, said that Lewis’ replacement would be named shortly. Lewis has been with Coke for nearly 18 years, previously serving as the senior vice president and general manager for Odwalla, a subsidiary.
“Alison is a talented marketing leader and this new opportunity allows her to achieve her professional and personal goals,” Bayne said, according to the article.
However, naturally, the hot ginger ale and Lewis’ departure aren’t the only press clips involving the cola giant this week. After all, it wouldn’t feel right if someone wasn’t castigating Coke for something.
Another article by Zmuda notes that the Horizon Foundation, a health-and-wellness group in Howard County, Md., has filmed a 30-second ad that will begin airing in the Howard County and Baltimore areas.
With an Apple-esque, folky instrumental strumming in the background, young people in green shirts find other people with bottles and cups of Coke and exchange them with beverages containing lower or no calories.
The ad finishes with the words: “Because happiness doesn’t come in a red can. Obesity does.”
Ian Kennedy, Horizon’s communications director, told Ad Age that the ad, which will run for three weeks during “Good Morning America,” “Today Show,” and “CBS This Morning” and on CNN, BET, HGTV, Bravo, USA and Food Network, serves as more of an attack on Coke’s advertising than the company itself.
“We’re not trying to make Coke a villain,” he told Ad Age. “We’re not going to improve public health if we make enemies of the beverage makers.”