Energy drink to target mainstream bars for first time
Soft drink giant Coca-Cola has abandoned its viral "word of mouth" marketing strategy for its exclusive energy drink brand, Burn, in favour of a more mainstream approach.
Since Burn was launched amid a shroud of secrecy last summer, Coca-Cola has made sure listings were strictly reserved for the upmarket style bar arena.
Until now the brand has been restricted to a mere 600 bars in an attempt to associate it with trend setters and "opinion makers".
However, Coca-Cola has lost patience with the low volume returns of the style bar target market and agreed to list Burn on trial in two mainstream pub companies.
Ian Deste, sales and marketing director for Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE), said: "The overall marketing strategy for Burn is a staged approach which began in December of last year and avoids mainstream consumer communications.
Stage one was a targeted, London only, sampling programme which seeded Burn into 15 of the capital's trendiest bars and into A-list celebrity parties.
"Stage two saw this programme being extended across the country, rolling out Burn into about 600 individual regional style bars," explained Mr Deste.
"The next stage of the strategy is to roll out Burn to further on-trade premises in the UK later this year. As a precursor to this stage, CCE is trialing Burn in a variety of licensed premises across the country, including 40 JD Wetherspoon and 20 Brannigans outlets."
The move into the mass market will place Burn in direct competition with the market leader Red Bull and Britvic's Carbon, specially formulated to primarily mix with dark spirits, in an on-trade energy drink market valued at more than £340m.
Red Bull chief Harry Drnec has been very critical of Burn's "viral marketing" approach and forecasted that Coca-Cola would be unable to resist the temptation of the mainstream sector.
A spokesperson for Red Bull said: "We're not really surprised that Coca-Cola has made this decision.
"When a massive manufacturer tries a different approach and enters into a niche market, it's only a matter of time before it returns to the usual strategy.
"At the end of the day pubs are going to want to stock the brands that have proven themselves and although they may experiment they will always revert back to the market leader."
More than 20 new energy and sports drinks were launched last year, including brands from four of the top five UK soft drink companies, and more than £20m was spent on advertising.