With an initial roll-out currently kicking into gear in the US and France, Coca-Cola Blāk is described on its teaser website as "an invigorating and stimulating blend that fuses Coke effervescence with coffee essence," with a "rich smooth texture and … a coffee-like froth when poured."
Americans first heard of Coca-Cola Blāk during the March 2006 Academy Awards pre-show. A 15-second televised teaser depicted Blāk as a glamorous movie star ducking from the glare of the paparazzi, juxtaposed with a soothing, sexy voice spreading Blāk’s mystique.
According to Scott Williamson, director of brand and business communication at Coca-Cola Company North America, the product's moniker is expected to evoke sleek, sexy feelings. "Yes, it is pronounced 'black.' As for the thinking behind the name, our research indicated 'Blāk' … describes the color of the product and has a sophisticated and modern tone."
Its web presence expands on this sensibility with an upscale soundtrack of chill-out music, and a certain after-hours chocolate-colored "hipness" that will undoubtedly encourage consumers to, as the site states, "enliven your senses and welcome new possibilities."
Williamson says it was high time for Coke to offer a new beverage option.
"As with all innovations that launch, it all starts with consumer interest," says Williamson. "We felt there was an opportunity to create something different that crossed over a lot of beverage categories. We tested a variety of brand concepts and early on, Coca-Cola Blāk is the one that resonated most strongly with consumers."
This reaction confirmed that Blāk was a worthwhile risk. After all, who could forget the wrath of consumers during the Old Coke vs. New Coke branding fiasco of the mid-80s? Ever mindful of that situation, the folks at Coca-Cola had to come up with an innovative way to introduce a new product that didn't impinge on the loyalty of Coke drinkers.
The approach with Blāk appears to be to create a specialty beverage focused on a niche market segment, as opposed to a new version of Coke that would try—and likely fail—to compete with the old.
"Blāk was designed for adults in their 20s and 30s looking for something different … something new," confirms Williamson. "It's definitely a niche beverage for consumers with a sophisticated palate. We don't anticipate that it will have as broad an appeal as Coke Classic. It wasn't created to. Our brands have a very loyal following. But we do think that, with Blāk, certain consumers might be curious about another way to enjoy a Coke beverage."
The recent boon of highly-caffeinated "energy drinks," like Red Bull and Tab Energy, has created a new soda sub-market—one that didn't include traditional Coke. Surprisingly, Blāk is not out for that segment either.
"This is not considered an energy drink at all," clarifies Williamson. "An eight-ounce serving of Blāk has less caffeine than coffee or an energy drink. We created Blāk with more of an interest in offering consumers a unique flavor."
Blāk doesn't only taste different from other beverages, it actually looks different too. "We've created a brand that is unique as a whole—all the way down to the packaging," says Williamson. "The eight-ounce bottle is shrink-wrapped and in a resealable glass bottle, which are firsts for Coca-Cola."
Blāk, which is available in individual bottles and four-packs, also features its own distinct logo and brand icon. "The oval brand icon is evocative of the Coca-Cola dynamic ribbon which runs [horizontally in the case of other Coca-Cola products like Diet Coke, Coca-Cola Classic, and Coca-Cola Zero] through the Coca-Cola trademark," says Williamson.
Such sophisticated packaging and marketing efforts should interest the curious among Coke's target demographic. "We wanted to offer consumers with a sophisticated palate a beverage that crosses over into a lot of beverage categories," comments Williamson. "Blāk is really unique. It defies categorization."