June 20th, 2012
Hats Off to the Soft-Drink Industry for Giving Attention to Hispanics and Blacks
By David Morse
When the marketing history books are written, June 2012 may be known as the month of the soda wars. So far this month, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a plan to ban sodas above 16 ounces. Disney, in league with Michelle Obama, announced that it would ban advertisements for unhealthy food and drinks from its children’s channels. And a former Coca-Cola marketing executive, Todd Putman, described as a “cut-throat ad man,” appeared on ABC news and expressed his regret for cooperating in the company’s policy to target teenagers, Hispanics and African Americans with its drinks.
Putman’s case is interesting. During his tenure at Coke, between 1997 and 2001, he says, the company treated these three groups as growth markets representing a “lifetime of opportunity.” It was part of a strategy to increase what he plaintively called “share of stomach.”
“Apologies are due,” he said. There is a “karmic debt” to be repaid.