Coke and Pepsi Get Real with Calorie Counts

As PR professionals, we know that transparency is an important attribute for any marketing campaign or brand image. Embracing reality is a wise strategy–even if it means being candid with details that the public may find ugly, undesirable or disturbing.

A lack of transparency breeds doubt, suspicion and distrust. The public won’t remain loyal to any brand that greets challenges with obfuscation or employs evasive tactics when dealing with customers. Venerable soda brands Coke and Pepsi seem to understand these points, and they are now taking a big public relations step by offering calorie counts on vending machines that stock their beverages.

In the midst of a much-publicized obesity epidemic, Americans are prone to place blame–and hopefully reverse the circumstances that got us into this peculiar situation. This means the public is taking a closer look at what they put into their bodies and taking more responsibility for their dietary habits. In order to do this the public needs information to make educated decisions, and calories counts are a sensible place to start.

Coke and Pepsi are savvy, experienced brands, and they shouldn’t fear this new reality. They can’t avoid it even if they want to, so the best strategy is to own it. These calorie disclosures may well cause the public to consume less of their products, even as they aim to push diet drinks and other alternatives. But the brands also gain credibility with the public because, let’s face it, we all know that sodas are not exactly “health” drinks–and we’re generally okay with that.

Instead of trying to sell buckets of soda for pocket change, Coke and Pepsi should focus on becoming part of the reasonable shift to moderation that the public craves. Smart brands listen to their customers, and the public clearly wants a bit of much-needed sanity in their lifestyles.

In fact, people just may happily pay more for a smaller drink they consider an indulgence than a large drink they take for granted.