Sobering news has settled on the carbonated beverage industry. After experiencing a 3% drop in 2008, sales of soda fell another 2.1% in 2009. Some of the drop may be attributable to consumer health concerns as medical reports have linked heavy soda consumption to a number of ills, including diabetes. And the recent recession may also have played a role in causing consumers to reach for tap water instead of a carbonated drink. But major beverage marketers aren’t about to watch sales keep sliding without a fight.

Writing for the Boston Globe, Brian Steinberg recently analyzed the shift in ad strategy being taken by Coke and Pepsi.  Historically these marketers relied on slick TV branding campaigns that promoted “fun times, summer picnics, and refreshment with taglines.” The problem is that more consumers, especially younger consumers, aren’t glued to their TV sets watching commercial after commercial. The beverage marketers face a situation where “brands are getting smaller relative to other choices, and their ability to define themselves is declining”, says David Stone of New England Consulting Group.

To reach more consumers, both large and small beverage manufacturers are moving portions of their ad budgets from TV to other media formats. Specifically, digital and social media are becoming part of the mix.  Tom First, co-founder of Nantucket Nectars notes that he uses social networking and radio ads and echoes what many believe: “ ‘You’d be a fool not to try and work’’ with Twitter, Facebook, and other means of reaching smaller groups of consumers.”

And while beverage manufacturers are exploring the use of new media, they’re also positioning  themselves as socially responsible and encouraging their customers to become involved with causes they support.  Many food manufacturers are exploring these kinds of changes this year but for beverage marketers, Michael Bellas, chief executive of Beverage Marketing Corp., say the new efforts make “the biggest shift in a long while in how beverages are marketed.’’

[Source: Steinberg, Brian. Coke and Pepsi moving beyond the good times. Boston Globe. 20 Apr. 2010. Web 3 May 2010]