Rankings and articles show how high the Coca-Cola Company ranks among the world’s largest firms : on the top ! For the marketing student that I am, the company undoubtfully is one of the best examples to observe this enormous system, particularly its brand identity. One of the recent projects is a new distribution concept which is currently tested on USA’s West Coast : the Freestyle™ fountain.
Code-named “Project Jet” in Atlanta, the project was one of the top priorities of Coca-Cola Company in the last four years. The challenge was to find a way to surprise and satisfy customers by offering the maximum of company products, while reducing the carbon footprint of the distribution and, last but not least, ideally get feed-back on customer choices. Good luck. To tackle this challenge, David Butler, Vice-P of Global Design and Todd Brooks, Design Director for Global Brands formulated four core principles for the design process of a Coke product : simplicity, authenticity, powerful red colour and being “familiar yet suprising“. The particularity of a beverage-firm like Coca-Cola is that design and marketing have more visibilty than product innovation. Actually Coke doesn’t change at all, the growth potential is external : the recent acquisition of Vitamine Water is one of many examples.
Industrial designer Raymond Loewy designed fountain dispenser for the 13 billion-dollar-company decades ago, and the Freestyle’s design emerged from the offices of the Pininfarina studios, one of the 300 design agencies worldwide Coca-Cola works with, also renown for numerous italian automotive designs. But it’s Butler, who mastered the whole development process, partly with Vince Voron, who came from Apple a couple of years ago to manage Cokes machines design. The resulting Freestyle machine aims to conciliate the global brand ID with a specific focus on local expectations. As another of the company’s executives states : “we have created a concept […] a representation of the way people will experience our beverages years from now“. “Experience” beverages !
The machine enables the customer to chose within more than 100 different low-calorie beverages (and hybrids of various Coca-Cola sodas, juices and waters : Fanta, Sprite, Minute Maid etc.), from the authentic Coke beverage to more exotic ones like Minute Maid Raspberry, Caffeine-Free Diet Coke with Lime or Fanta Peach ! But it’s the touchscreen that is remarkable : intuitive browsing through the company’s brands, variants and tastes. And the machine gives feedback : not only about customer-preferences (tastes, peak times, locations etc.), but also allows quick product recall if necessary. Finally, the use of highly concentrate syrup reduces the impact of transport and packaging to a minimum. It’s already used in the McDonald’s dispensers, never watched at it when the Coke pours into your cup?
Fast Company wrote a very good post about David Butler and his work on the Coke fountain. According to them, he doesn’t use the expression “design thinking” but prefers to “create more value“, and design is one of numerous tools that allow it (“improve the experience to make more money“). It’s as simple as that, and reminds us that design isn’t only about products, but also processes. As Butler repeats at the end of the Fast-Company-journalist’s visit : “This is not a design story […] we’re leveraging design to drive innovation and to win at the point of sale“.
I’ll tag this post with the D-word anyway !