Coke to counter growing competition from local brands with refreshed RimZim

The new drink targets young non-metro consumers and the campaign looks to draw their attention, with a touch of the bizarre and some humour
The relaunch plan for RimZim was hatched way back in 2012; that is when Coca-Cola India first considered reviving the brand that it had bought along with Thums up from Indian cola king, Ramesh Chauhan. But despite a positive response to the pilot taste tests, the beverage maker demurred. Its enthusiasm for RimZim dimmed by the double-digit growth in sales volumes being notched up by flagship brand, Coke, at the time. 

But the Coke story in India has taken a dramatic turn since. And by mid-2017 it was clear that playing business as usual would not help, not just because regional competition had upped its game, but also because the consumer wanted more. The company had to look beyond its sugary cola drinks portfolio to grow. So finally, after over a decade in exile, RimZim is back. 

Positioned as an ethnic masala soda brand, Coca-Cola India is looking to ride on the growing nostalgia for old and traditional flavours among beverage consumers. According to Abhijit Datta, director-flavors, Coca-Cola India, for RimZim the approach in the past has been to let it sell where it had natural traction. But the company was not going out of its way to boost the brand or launch it nationally. Now the company is changing with the times, but the question is whether the company has left it too late? 

Competition has overrun the traditional flavours market in the country. In recent years, local players like Jayanti Beverages, Fresca, Paper Boat and Xalta, among others, have leveraged the growing consumer preference for non-cola drinks that revive old local flavours. These brands are a threat to the large cola companies like Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, with their innovative offerings and competitive pricing. As per industry estimates, there are over 150 regional and local cola players currently peddling their wares in the Indian market. RimZim will find it tough challenging the local players on their home turf, say experts.

Add to that the hit that the big cola brands have taken for their flagship labels. While, PepsiCo’s beverages business has slipped into the red, Coke’s volume uptakes suffered heavily between 2014 and 2017, volume sales have fallen for more than nine quarters. This would constrain the ability to push the new brands.

On the flip side, given the present reality of the market, niche segments such as masala soda offer hope, say experts. While PepsiCo had already entered the segment in 2013, Coke decided to bet on Rimzim to capture the estimated Rs 500 crore masala soda category with a jeera flavour. “Today, the idea is to come up with products that are fun with local ingredients. Jeera was a perfect fit in that sense. We are in a market where consumers are open to trying new things”, said Datta.  

The market is crowded but Datta believes that most brands have positioned their labels within the rather restricted ‘functional’ space. There has been no significant investment in marketing, packaging or promoting these drinks, definitely nothing on the scale of what the cola brands can do. He sees potential in the brand and the category. “The category has so far remained “just functional” and we plan to transform it into a fun category of beverages consumed by young stars. Thus, our campaign is Atpata nahi Chatpata (not bizarre, but tangy),” Datta said. 

Datta is referring to the short films currently on television and digital media where a pair of boys encounter outlandish behaviour around them, but are unfazed by it because of the taste of RimZim. In the campaign note, Amit Nandwani, executive creative director, Leo Burnett India, said: “To establish RimZim as the real chatpata (tangy) drink, we juxtaposed atpata (bizarre) life situations with the reaction of our protagonist who is lost in the taste.”  

Coca-Cola opened its campaign for RimZim during the Indian Premier League this season and has been looking for innovative ways to reach consumers, even with personalised messages on social media platforms. According to T Krishnakumar, president, Coca-Cola South West Asia Region, Coke is “starting to get double digit share in the jeera drinks segment in certain regions.” He believes that the market belonged to local players in the past. “We are focusing on areas or states like Karnataka, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Odisha, parts of Andhra Pradesh where there is significant business opportunity,” he said.