10/10/2006

Black People Love Coca-Cola BlaK!

I've heard of junk food companies targeting minorities before, but...Coca-Cola's new drink is called "BlaK"? I assume that's just a reference to black coffee, or an attempt to get in on the young, "urban" Red Bull market. It must be just a coincidence that the Coca-Cola BlaK site plays bongo drums overlaid with smooth jazz. Or that the sultry, mellifluous female voice-over encourages you to "experience the fusion of Coke effervescence with coffee essence." I don't know. As you can tell from my picture, right, I am a whitey, and I was too busy creating my own gallery of "Artistic Expressions of the Essence of BlaK" on Coke's interactive website to notice.


A lot of Starbucks loungers think of themselves as artists too, and Coke is obviously trying to jump on the Starbucks bandwagon by launching a coffee product. I don't blame them for wanting to be like Starbucks, another, equally scary Death Star in the beverage universe. I blame them for trying to be black.

Coke reps were putting the black back in Times Square the other day by distributing plastic bottles of BlaK instead of the usual glass. Presumably the Coke heads don't know anything about the Crain's article that concluded that "free product samples, sweepstakes, free gifts and travel prizes all can motivate minority consumers to buy a particular product if they are well-planned and targeted." After all, the former Coke head quoted in the article who handled "ethnic marketing" for Sprite has left the company, but not before organizing a free trip giveaway to the Soul Train Awards Show. No, the Coke heads were probably just handing out free soft drinks in New York City because they thought we were thirsty! Aw, shucks.

Fortunately, I happened to be having lunch with a black person that day. ("Half black," he elaborated. Whatever, Tiger. Black enough for the purposes of this article.) I couldn't wait to see what he thought of Coca-Cola BlaK.

First, we admire the bottle. At least Coke knows good design, as has been mentioned before here. Is the plastic bottle supposed to bring down the cost? Let's hope so. Right now it's $6.99 for a friggin' four pack of Coke BlaK on Fresh Direct (where a lot of white people might secretly order Coke BlaK). I haven't done my market research, but the last I checked, black people and most other people don't want to spend more than $1-$1.50 on a Coke. It's like the subway-pizza rule of inflation. Coke is basically a monetary unit, one that should be on the currency index. If a Coke is half as expensive here as it is in another country you're thinking of visiting, for instance, chances are your vacation will cost twice as much as planned.

My friend and I request a glass with ice at the restaurant where we are having lunch. No corking fee is required once we explain that we just chanced into a highly coveted giveaway of plastic-bottled Coca-Cola BlaK. The pour is similar to that of regular Coke. It is fizzy and dark brown, not really black. Then again, that same issue always confused me as a child - why were black people called black when sometimes their skin is actually dark brown? And shouldn't redheads be called orange-heads? So I guess Coke has some leeway here.

The taste: my first thought is "ice cream." It tastes like melted coffee ice cream with an overlay of dulce de leche. Sweet! (Literally and figuratively.) It has half the calories of a regular Coke. Read the fine print, though and you'll see this is not just because it's half coffee, but because it's sweetened with both aspartame and corn syrup. (Coke's decision to use corn syrup instead of sugar in the American market is credited to "local tastes" and has absolutely nothing to do with farming subsidies.) This half-sugar, half-not combo is similar to an annoying Starbucks order of "grande coffee, half caf, half decaf, in a venti cup" that confuses the counter person enough to make her summon the manager while everyone else waits in line.* Just make up your mind already.

My friend tastes it. He likes it! He really likes it! Oh phew. Now I can drink Coca-Cola BlaK in good conscience. Because I would drink it again, though we decide it would probably taste better with vodka. Or maybe a little Hennessy.

*actual recent Starbucks scenario

1 comments:

Joy who is Chinese said...

I feel the need for an Oriental Coke now--only I guess we are too small a part of the market. Oh well.