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At sixes and sevens over Coke fiver

New Delhi, March 17: Cola drinkers in the capital are at sixes and sevens over Coke’s five-buck pricing strategy. Reason: they are having to pay Rs 6 for a 200-ml bottle when consumers in the rest of the country are paying Rs 5.

Coca-Cola had launched an aggressive ad campaign starring Aamir Khan to drill it into the consciousness of Indians that the chota Coke was for just Rs 5. The national ad campaign was a huge success — it stole the thanda of its rivals. It did more by winning the AAAI and Abby advertising awards. But customers in Delhi, the largest cola drinking city, are infuriated that they are having to pay more for the 200-ml bottle.

Of course its arch rivals are following a similar price discriminating strategy — paanch (five) for the rest of the country and chey (six) for Delhi.

“Aamir Khan chota Coke paanch rupyaa mein bechta hain aur Delhi mein aam aadmi ko chey rupyaa mein milta hain” (Aamir Khan sells it at Rs 5, but for common man in Delhi, it is available for Rs 6),” said a hassled retailer on Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, the capital’s Fleet Street. He has a problem. The printed price on the glass bottles of the ‘chota’ Coke brands (200 ml) says Rs 6 and he sells the bottles for Rs 6, but customers who have seen the nation-wide award winning ad say they are being cheated.

Coke isn’t too forthcoming about the reasons for the price anomaly. “It is only in Delhi and possibly a few other areas that it is selling at Rs 6; in the rest of the places, it is being sold at Rs 5,” says the Coke spokesperson. It is common practice to have a regional price variation owing to local levies and sales taxes, he added.

He may have a point. But then, is it very disconcerting for a customer to find a product at Rs 6 whose national promotion campaign tries to hammer in the fact that it is available at ‘paanch rupyaa’ all over. The same bottle is priced at Rs 5 in all the other metros, including Calcutta and Mumbai.

Arch rival Pepsi has also priced its 200 ml returnable glass bottles at Rs 5; it too has this strange policy of selling at a rupee more in Delhi. A Pepsi spokesperson said, “The Rs 6 price is for Delhi and some north Indian markets like Punjab and Haryana. Regional pricing is a common practice,” he too claimed.

The crux of the problem lies in the fact that Delhi is the largest cola drinking city in the country and it also is the city where chota Bisleri at Rs 5 had made the biggest headway, cutting into cola territory. Both cola firms needed to swat the water companies with a price war with their chota cola. But before the battle could begin, Bisleri hit its own stumps when a Delhi-based magazine released a study showing Bisleri and many other mineral water brands being sold in the capital were highly contaminated.

Sales of mineral water bottles were badly hit. And cola companies could afford to raise prices. Industry experts agree that Delhi is one of the biggest markets for colas, accounting for about 35 million cases of carbonated soft drinks(CSD) for an all-India CSD market of about 300 million cases.

But Chey or Paanch, Coke has managed to win more than just cola drinkers. The ‘thandaa matlab Coca-Cola’ campaign on Sunday grabbed the Abby award held in Mumbai for the best campaign of the year award (which has gone to McCann Erickson, Mumbai) out of 2,500 entries in 17 categories. The campaign’s creative director, Prasoon Joshi, also got the copywriter of the year award. Abby has given the advertiser of the year award to Coca-Cola India, apart from some other awards that has gone to this campaign’s kitty.

Prior to the Abby award, the thanda ad campaign has also won the campaign of the year award from the Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI).

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