Coke Gives Plastic Bottles a Second Life in Vietnam

Molly Soat
Marketing News Exclusives
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Key Takeaways

  • ​​Coca-Cola Co. is giving rural Asian Coke consumers a way to reuse its iconic red and white bottles. ​

  • The soda brand is providing Vietnamese Coke buyers with a free package of customized bottle tops that turn their used plastic Coke bottles into spray bottles, pencil sharpeners, markers, shampoo containers and 12 other new uses. ​

  • According to Nielsen, 68% of Vietnam’s 90 million people live in rural communities. Additionally, Nielson reports that there were two and a half times more college graduates in these rural communities in 2014 than in 2009, and the income per capita in these communities grew 44% between 2010 and 2012. ​

Atlanta-based Coca-Cola Co. is giving rural Asian Coke consumers a way to reuse its iconic red and white bottles. The soda brand is providing Vietnamese Coke buyers with a free package of customized bottle tops that turn their used plastic Coke bottles into spray bottles, pencil sharpeners, markers, shampoo containers and 12 other new uses.

The largely kid-focused campaign, which Coke plans to launch later this year, is called “Second Lives,” and was created by Coke and its Asian branding partner Ogilvy & Mather Beijing. The pilot program started in March 2014 in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, as part of the brand’s global sustainability program. Coke will continue to distribute 40,000 cap packages throughout Vietnam by the end of 2014. The company plans to launch the project across Asia at a later date, according to Ogilvy and Coke.

Experts say that the advantages to this campaign are twofold: increased brand awareness in emerging markets and the promotion of a sustainability-focused brand image with a whimsical twist.Until recent years, Vietnam has been accustomed to a culture of not discarding things, and therefore it was common to reuse and recycle many everyday products,” Kerry Tressler, a spokeswoman for Coke, said in an e-mailed statement to Marketing News Exclusives. “The Second Lives concept in Vietnam is trying to reignite this spirit of valuing things, including our packaging, through a line of caps intended to transform used bottles into fun and useful objects while encouraging consumers to reuse and repurpose plastic.

According to Nielsen, 68% of Vietnam’s 90 million people live in rural communities. Additionally, Nielson reports that there were two and a half times more college graduates in these rural communities in 2014 than in 2009, and the income per capita in these communities grew 44% between 2010 and 2012. This presents a potential growth opportunity for brands entering Vietnam’s rural market, says Stanley Chao, managing director of Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.-based global business consultancy All In Consulting, and author of Selling to China: A Guide to Doing Business in China for Small- and Medium-Sized Companies.

Chao says that it’s a shrewd move for Coke to market the bottle tops mostly to rural children byu turning the bottles into toys and school supplies, rather than exclusively to adults by creating only household items. “It’s these school children, 5- to 10-year-olds, who are now able to play with Coke bottles. … If you take a kid living in the outskirts of China … getting a squirt gun is a really big deal. They now have a toy that says Coke on it. Their family and neighbors are going to start asking questions like: ‘What is a Coke? Next time we go into town, let’s spend 50 cents, which is a lot of money, to buy a Coke.’ It’s a really good fit for this market.”

According to Emily Nicholson, senior brand consultant at London-based branding and design consultancy The Brand Union, which helped Kraft Foods expand into the Chinese market, the campaign’s sustainability bent has global applications. “The campaign responds to increasing scrutiny of its environmental and social impact, but does so in a pleasingly upbeat way,” Nicholson said in an e-mail. “This new campaign gently and very cleverly extends the brand’s presence into areas of consumers’ lives that it has not previously been able to go—the bathroom, the school classroom, even the nursery—edging closer to a world made entirely of shiny red and white logos. Transforming empty, worthless bottles into fun, creative and practical objects allows Coke to make a little difference in a tangible way, doing the environment a favor and helping consumers to forget that Coke bottles are completely non-biodegradable in the process. It seems so simple that you wonder why no one else got there first.”​ 

This article was originally published in the June 19, 2014, edition of Marketing News Exclusives.



Author Bio:

Molly Soat
Molly Soat is a staff writer for Marketing News and Marketing News Exclusives. E-mail her at msoat@ama.org.
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