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4 Ways In Which Coca-Cola Has Failed With The Keringet Rebrand From A Digital Perspective.

It was in October 2023 that Coca-Cola unveiled a new visual design and brand identity for one of Kenya’s best-known beverage brands – Keringet. Keringet, as far as I know, could be Kenya’s only natural spring water brand that for over three decades has been one of the best-known and trusted beverage brands in Kenya and the broader East African region.

Keringet is a Kalenjin word that fittingly means “water point”. Keringet is bottled at source at a plant in the picturesque Molo Highlands which borders the Mau Forest at 8,000 feet above sea level.

Natural spring water comes from an underground aquifer as is the case with Keringet. Spring water comes from subsurface sources where water naturally rises to the surface. The mineral composition and total dissolved solids levels of natural spring water vary depending on the area.

The current demand for nutrient-fortified water has been increasing amongst people from all walks of life as they seek healthier alternatives. The products labeled alkaline, electrolyte-rich, and fortified with added hydrogen oxygen have been gaining popularity.

Perhaps it is because I had the opportunity to work with the Keringet brand from a digital marketing perspective when my agency Dotsavvy was engaged by Crown Foods, who created and owned the Keringet brand back in 2008, that makes me feel a sense of ownership around the Keringet brand, but my first impression of the rebranding drew a strong and unpleasant visceral feeling from me.

Quite simply, I didn’t like the direction the new Keringet branding had taken since I loved what was there before as it simply worked! The new branding felt modern, for sure, and more contemporary, but it had become perhaps too stark or simplistic in the process.

I also became aware online where many other people lamented about the Keringet rebranding that it is a brand design language that cuts across not just Keringet in Kenya, but also Voltic in Ghana, and Valpre in South Africa.

This is the sort of thing that large multinationals do when they rationalize integrating everything they own into one common style or theme as logical to ensure that consumers can ‘connect the dots’ and that they all belong to the same family of brands.

On the surface, this may seem to make sense, but the whole reason behind branding is to stand out uniquely in a sea of sameness that leads to strong emotional connections with consumers.

One thing I feel very strongly about local Kenyan brands as is the case with Keringet is that they have the potential to become not just successful local and regional brands, but even global brands. This is not far-fetched in the case of bottled natural spring water given the global success of the likes of Evian, Aquafina, Perrier, and Fiji Water.

To put this into perspective, the global natural spring market was valued at US$ 225B in 2022. At the same time, it’s expected to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 8.3% from 2022 to 2032. Lastly, the global natural spring water market is expected to be worth more than US$ 497B by the end of 2032. These are massive numbers by any measure and Keringet could have a much larger global market share if it’s positioned and marketed in the right way by Coca-Cola.

Naturally, as someone who feels very nostalgic about Keringet’s legacy and my experience working with the brand in the past, my curiosity following the rebranding of Keringet was to go online to see how Coca-Cola had executed the same on digital channels.

However, to my utter shock and disappointment, there was hardly anything online that captured the moment except for the media coverage on various digital outlets. It seems to me that Coca-Cola (still) prioritizes traditional media over digital media given that Keringet’s out-of-home media presence was immediate and ubiquitous even for a brand that seems to have been repositioned to capture the ‘cool digital kids’ from what I can tell.

So, because this blog post had been percolating for the better part of three months since Keringet was rebranded, I finally want to ‘let it all out’ or ‘forever hold my silence’ in what I see as disappointing in terms of how Coca-Cola has handled the rebranding of Keringet, from a digital perspective. On this basis, these are the 4 things that Coca-Cola got completely wrong with Keringet digitally:

Coca-Cola has not registered any or all of the relevant Keringet domain names.

I am not what you could call a ‘cyber sleuth’ but within 5 minutes today, I was able to establish that there are no domain names that have been acquired by Coca-Cola for Keringet. This is surprising given that in an increasingly digital global context, following the COVID-19 pandemic, one would imagine that as part of the expensive rebranding exercise that Keringet has undergone through Coca-Cola, it would have invested in securing the brand’s digital equity by ensuring all possible and relevant domain names would be ‘locked down’.

Coca-Cola, as a marketing-led organization, is renowned for creating incredible brand equity with massive longevity so it’s somewhat surprising that they did not do this for Keringet. It can only mean that they do not see Keringet as a high-priority brand since if they did they would have ensured it would have all its domain names secured, not just for Kenya but globally. As seen below this is not the case and therefore anyone could potentially procure these domain names and proceed to utilise them for ulterior motives that could lead to massive brand damage.

Keringet does NOT have a dedicated brand microsite.

The purpose of a microsite is to hyper-target a specific group of people to maximize brand awareness, positioning, and ultimately sales. Microsites are primarily built to focus in on a subject or a product for instance to generate leads for brands or businesses that want to sell a product or service in a targeted and efficient manner as well as e-commerce sales if required.

In the case of Keringet, it should have a microsite ideally under a domain name like Keringet.com, Keringet.ke or Keringet.africa for a unique and transparent digital brand presence that is fully owned and managed. This is the case for ALL the leading global natural spring water brands, even if they are owned by major multinational consumer products and goods (CPG) companies or groups like Danone as is the case with Coca-Cola.

As things stand, the Keringet brand is embedded one a few product landing pages within a larger Coca-Cola website in Kenya based on a standardised global theme. From this perspective, the Keringet brand is unable to shine and stand out as it just looks like another product on an e-commerce-enabled platform.

This is genuinely sad since the brand story behind Keringet is as Kenyan as it is unique. We don’t get to see or hear how the brand came about, how it is produced, how it impacts communities in Kenya, and how sustainable it is.

A microsite can serve as a powerful resource for Keringet to truly ‘come to life’ in a way that would resonate with consumers from within and beyond in Kenya. This is exactly what the likes of Evian and Fiji Water have done with their respective brand microsites. Coca-Cola could do the same for Keringet.

One unrelated thing I discovered is that if you go to Google and search for ‘Keringet’, you will find as seen below that someone or a retailer in Kenya has gone and registered a Google Business Profile named ‘Keringet Water’.

This is one of the first references that comes up online for a search query and it harms the Keringet brand as it creates the impression that it does not care for how it shows up online if it can allow an imposter to do so.

Coca-Cola needs to reach out to Google and make sure that this is pulled down as it could potentially lead to fraudulent business transactions in the name of Keringet – stranger things have happened, and this is Kenya, after all! 🙂

Keringet’s social media presence is minimal and lackluster.

I also spent some time to try and locate Keriget’s presence on the leading social media platforms. As it turns out the brand is only present on Facebook which is shocking given that although Facebook is the biggest social media platform in Kenya, apart from WhatsApp in terms of sheer user numbers.

Everyone, including their Cucu and Guka (Grandmother and Grandfather) is on Facebook these days but the super important young(er) demographics of Millennials, Gen Z and Gen Alpha live on TikTok, Instagram, and Snapchat.

Given how ‘cool’ and ‘cosmopolitan’ the marketing campaign for the rebranded Keringet looks you would expect that these would be the priority consumer segments that Coca-Cola would be gunning to acquire new customers whilst sustaining existing customers.

All this being said, the reality is that at the very least Keringet is on Facebook. However, content updates seem sporadic and far apart from what I can tell. I also noticed that the cover photo there looks quite blurry which is again surprising given the marketing pedigree of Coca-Cola and its legendary attention to brand standards and quality in how it markets.

This level of poor execution again suggests that Keringet as a brand is quite simply not top-of-mind for Coca-Cola. Keringet should be highly visible across all the major social media platforms with compelling content and advertising that will resonate with different market segments at scale. Ultimately, this will lead to better brand awareness, engagement, and sales conversions. All this isn’t happening at the minute.

Keringet’s programmatic digital advertising is poorly executed.

The last straw, so to speak, that led to this blog post last night was seeing a prominent display ad for Keringet on a low-quality website that I would not consider to be brand-safe for Keringet. Programmatic advertising is the use of automated technology for media buying (the process of buying advertising space), as opposed to traditional (often manual) methods of digital advertising. Programmatic media buying utilizes data insights and algorithms to serve ads to the right user at the right time and the right price.

Now the definition of programmatic advertising is one thing but how it’s executed can have a broad range of variables that can make it a risky proposition for any brand. The appeal of programmatic advertising tends to be that it can be very cost-effective for marketers who want to reach target audiences at scale. However, the caveat in doing so is that unless targeting is done with lots of hygiene it’s possible digital ads can be placed on highly questionable websites and mobile apps.

A report that came out in 2023 identified that approximately 15% of programmatic spending and 21% of impressions appear on low-quality made-for-advertising (MFA) websites. This is because while marketers include 4,500 MFA sites on exclusion lists, few provide inclusion lists of quality sites for their advertising campaigns. What this means is that whichever programmatic advertising platform Coca-Cola is using to run its digital ads for Keringet, these are unfortunately showing up in places where no one should see them.

The Digital Way Forward For Keringet.

In concluding what I would call a very much-needed rant for Keringet, I am just hoping that Coca-Cola will take the remedial measures required to make Keringet great on digital channels. This is possible and necessary for the brand to thrive in the long term and much of this will be in the service of acquiring and nurturing more customers as well as leading to increased brand equity in Kenya and beyond.

In time, Keringet can become a globally popular natural spring water brand given that we live in a world where climate change and sustainability are major topical issues for consumer products and goods. Keringet may have the edge of being a uniquely Kenyan and African brand that ticks all the right boxes with the right digital marketing strategies whilst having the allure and mystique that sets it apart from all other global natural spring water brands.

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