Amazon and Coca-Cola partner on niche nostalgia e-commerce
Thanks to social media, what a decade ago might have amounted to a few scattered conversations about a long-forgotten soda, instead has two commercial giants partnering to test-drive a new distribution model. Years of fervent online chatter over Surge, a soda discontinued 12 years ago, led Coca-Cola to announce earlier this week that the beverage is returning to production and that it will be available only through Amazon.
Per Coca-Cola’s blog post, Surge is "Coke’s first discontinued brand to return to the market."
The groundswell of grassroots enthusiasm for Surge over the past few years has been impressively well-organized. A Facebook "Cause" page entitled "Surge Movement" now boasts more than 140,000 followers. In 2013, the group raised $4,000 and used it to purchase a billboard near Coke headquarters agitating for the soda’s return.
Catering to the demands of this noisy niche would have been prohibitively expensive through a traditional distribution channel. But Amazon and Coca-Cola may have arrived at a heretofore unexplored way to meet the demands of a small yet vocal audience.
As the new 16 oz. cans arrive online to mass fanfare in Amazon’s review section, though, there are plenty of questions raised about the long-term value of riding this lemon/lime-flavored wave of ’90s nostalgia. It is clear from Coca-Cola’s comments that the company is paying attention to metrics and treating it like a trial run.
"If expectations are met, this may be only the first of a variety of efforts we explore to launch niche products through e-commerce relationships," said Wendy Clark, president of sparkling and strategic marketing, Coca-Cola North America, in a statement. "This will be a great learning experience for us and a refreshing opportunity for fans."
A key question, then, is what expectations Coca-Cola hopes to meet. Given the kitsch factor of a campaign to bring back a discontinued soda, it seems quite possible that the fight for Surge might prove more exciting than the product itself. If that is the case, one wonders if that is still enough to justify Coca-Cola pursuing these kinds of promotions.
- SURGE RETURNS: Back By Popular Demand, Brand Now Available Exclusively at Amazon.com – Coca-Cola
- Coke resurrects Surge cola as Amazon exclusive — and it sells out in a flash – Geekwire
- SURGE Movement – Facebook
Is there value in heeding the demand of social media and bringing back a defunct product the way Amazon and Coca-Cola have? What are the long-term possibilities of these sorts of niche e-commerce promotions?