Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Light... Or Diet?

Recently while I was in Amsterdam, I noticed something peculiar about the grey and white can of Coca-Cola I'm so accustomed to drinking. It had the text placed beneath the brand rather than above it and upon reading it, I realized that this was not "Diet Coke" but rather "Coca-Cola Light." I did some digging and found out that Coca-Cola Light is offered in Continental Europe as opposed to Diet Coke. It's the exact same product just under a different name. It really makes me think about cultural differences when I think about the demographic Coca-Cola Light must appeal to.

I suspect the European market is less obsessed with the "diet" fads. Since I've been here, I haven't seen one story on the cover of a European magazine with a headline pertaining to weight loss. Are people just content with themselves here? It's a strange thought, I know. I feel like in America we're constantly trying to "better" ourselves and even speaking with my professor here, she confessed that she had gotten braces because her American friends had made her self conscious about her teeth when she hadn't been before.

I also thought about additional reasons why Coca-Cola Light could be offered. I know the "Dr. Pepper 10" campaign is targeted towards men because "men don't diet." I'd be interested to see how many men were more willing to drink "Coca-Cola Light" than "Diet Coke." If the percentage of men willing to drink light beer is any indicator, I'd guess that "Coca-Cola Light" isn't much better than "Diet Coke" in terms of word choice. That being said, is Coke Zero popular here? I personally am not a fan, but I haven't been around enough soft drink consuming Europeans to really tell whether or not "Coca-Cola Light" did the trick for taking the stigma out of drinking a sugar-free and calorie-free drink or if Coke Zero was angled differently. What are your thoughts? Are people here just more inclined to be content with their bodies and lives, or is there another reason for this interesting change in name? After all, the logos are almost identical just with different words, "Diet" and "Light" that are positioned above and below "Coca-Cola" respectively.


  1. This is an excellent example of framing. I think the word “diet” suggests change. American culture is very fixed on this idea of constantly "bettering yourself." We always need something else to make us look better or feel better. Diet Coke makes us feel like we’ve made the “better” choice, despite studies that propose these canned chemicals can lead to memory loss and a host of other issues. The focus is on the drinker. The word “light” suggests feelings of carefree weightlessness. Light coke tastes less heavy than regular coke. The focus is on the drink.

    I am not sure if I have the authority to speak for the whole of the country, but it does seem England celebrates being happy now as opposed to America’s obsession with being happy after three small payments of $19.99 or six easy steps. While at Wimbledon, a couple told us that though the Pimms was “stupidly expensive,” we just had to get one because “it’s Wimbledon.” While attempting to read the nutrition facts in Tesco, a friend of mine was passed by an English man who laughed and said, “oh, don’t look at that! Just buy it.” I also have yet to find a British publication boasting weight loss plans.

    This is a great recognition of an advertisement customized for a culture. I’d be interested to see how ads differ for American foods as well.

  2. I really think this is just a cultural thing. As in the term "diet" just does not exist in mainland Europe to describe beverages.

    And the comment about beer is interesting too. . .when was the last time you saw a Bud Light? They only sell Bud Heavy.

    In fact the only light beer I have seen is Coors Light, and that has only been at a few select bars, and Coors is equally as hard to find in the States.

    I just think the demographic that caters to the "light" beverage market does not really exist here in Europe (mainly the continent and not the UK).

  3. Whether it's a cultural thing or not, I think that the word choice does, to an extent, reflect the different cultures: America is pretty diet-crazy, given the tons of fad diets we're always obsessed with (South Beach, Atkins, grapefruit diet, juice cleanses, etc.). The word diet has taken on a new meaning; now it's viewed as some temporary solution to a problem. Without getting into too much of a debate on American vs. European lifestyles, the fact is that in America, we don't need to change our diets-- we need to change the way we think about food. Our relationships with eating just aren't very healthy, and our reputation here in Europe reflects that. Their coke here is marketed as Coke Light, which doesn't imply the need to diet or be held to a strict diet. Instead, it seems to be marketed as simply a lighter, less-sweet version of Coke. No dieting is implied here, just a more responsible lifestyle.

  4. I would agree most closely with Rachel’s response. I think Coca-Cola’s marketing has to do with the cultural differences between the United States and Europe. In America, “dieting” is seen as a temporary fix to an overall unhealthy lifestyle. Here however, eating lighter is just the norm. One thing I think is worth pointing out in this discussion is the food portion size difference between here and the United States. At home, when I order an entree from a restaurant, I eat probably half of it - on a good night - and then take the rest home. Here, however, I’m noticing the portion sizes are much more reasonable. From what I’ve heard from my classmates about some of their dining experiences, “doggy bags” are mildly unheard of here, perhaps because most people are able to finish their entrees.

    Going back to our debate topic (health in the media), the U.S. is now beginning to see some major changes in their attitude toward food. Health campaigns in the media are opening Americans’ minds to the dangers of the food they most often gravitate towards. As I mentioned in the debate, for the first time ever, soft drinks are not the most popular beverages in America. Drinks like Vitamin Water and V8 juices are taking the lead in the drink industry. Maybe someday we’ll see the name “Coca-Cola Light” replace “Diet Coke” in the U.S.