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Noting the vast popularity of subscription services for consumer goods—an estimated 54 percent of U.S. consumers pay fees to receive monthly shipments of razors, pet supplies, beauty products, and so forth—Coca-Cola decided to give its most fervent fans a chance to join the movement. For $10 per month (or $50 paid in advance), these Coke devotees receive shipments of new drinks, spanning a variety of flavors and styles.

The initial introduction of the service was limited to just a six-month trial for only 1,000 subscribers. That level was reached almost immediately. Coca-Cola quickly set up a waitlist for the thousands of other fans who wanted to pay for such access, suggesting that the experiment might continue for a longer time as well. It already has promised that subscribers can look forward to receiving a new brand of sparking water, as well as new iterations of its Coke Energy beverage.

From these efforts, Coke hopes to obtain in-depth insights into which options people like best, as well as which ones are unlikely to move off store shelves. Unlike many of the other start-ups that have been experimenting with subscription services, Coca-Cola already has national and international distribution and marketing capabilities, which means that it can assign geographic segmentation considerations to the feedback it receives too.

The program thus serves several purposes. For true Coke (or Sprite or Monster or so on) lovers, it represents a special offering that recognizes them as special and different. For the company’s R&D department, the feedback received from dedicated subscribers, willing to pay for the right to taste new products first, gives invaluable insights into what the earliest adopters find appealing. In addition to such formal feedback channels, these super fans are likely to share their exciting new deliveries and discoveries with friends or on social media, so the marketing department also enjoys the benefits of viral buzz.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Would you sign up for a subscription service from Coca-Cola? What makes this offering appealing to regular consumers?
  2. How can Coca-Cola use the feedback and social media posts by super fans? For example, how might this information determine its distribution, new product development, or retailing strategies?

Source: Korin Miller, “Coca-Cola Started an ‘Insiders Club’ that Lets You Try New Products Before They Hit Shelves,” Delish, December 17, 2019; Leo Sun, “Coca-Cola Wants to Sell ‘Soda as a Service’,” Motley Fool, December 23, 2019