Part 14: Thums Up Story: Coca Cola tries to kill Parle brands

Previously, we had seen how Ramesh Chauhan “surrendered” and sold his brands to Coca Cola:

Soon after buying Parle brands, in spite of instantly getting 80% market-share and the bottling network without much effort, Coca Cola found itself in a tricky situation due to conflict of brands as follows:
1) Thums Up & Coke were cola drinks
2) Gold Spot & Fanta were orange drinks
3) Limca, Citra & Sprite were lemon drinks

Throughout the world, Coca Cola always channelized its marketing efforts on its own global brands and hence in India also they wanted to use similar approach by getting rid of redundant brands. Ramesh Chauhan tried very hard explaining them that the Indian market was wide, diversified & large enough to accommodate multiple brands in same segment, but Coca Cola did not heed to his advice.

Gold Spot was ruthlessly killed on very first day itself, to make way for Fanta as the “masti” drink.
Limca was slowly dismantled in few months and next in line was Thums Up. Although the CEO of Coca Cola India tried to explain the American HQ that Indian were addicted to Thums Up and killing it would be like shooting itself in the foot, the American boss remained adamant and insisted on shelving it, which was faithfully obliged by the Indian subsidiary. 

For the next 2 years, Coca Cola & Pepsi fought fiercely for marketshare. While Coca Cola was the leader all over the world, it was trailing behind Pepsi in India, party due to the fact that Pepsi had entered much before Coca Cola in India, and also because Pepsi had made all the right decisions by betting big on cricket & bollywood for marketing. In 1996, when Coca Cola spent big money and defeated Pepsi to become the official sponsorer (as as well official drink)  of the 1996 Wills Cricket World Cup, Pepsi turned the defeat to its advantage by creating a new campaign called “Nothing official about it”, implying that nobody cares about which is the official drink because everyone wanted only Pepsi.
Link to the ad campaign:

1996 was a crucial year and a turning point for the Indian Cola industry due to the Cricket World Cup. In the absence of Thums Up, most of its fans switched to Pepsi, thanks to Pepsi’s aggressive marketing which had struck a chord with Indian sentiments. That was the year when Coca Cola finally realized that by killing Thums Up, it was literally serving significant marketshare to Pepsi on a platter. Before it was too late, Coca Cola revived Thums Up and in 1997, the legendary drink returned with a thunder. Interestingly, Coca Cola tried to tweak its tagline to “I want my thunder” (whereas earlier it was “Taste the thunder”) and produced an ad showing a young man going to the extent of risking his life just for a bottle of Thums Up.

It ran into controversies after several kids lost their lives trying to imitate the ad (by jumping from top of buildings/cliffs) and the company promptly responded by taking those ads off the air.
Despite such controversies, the revival of Thums Up brand helped Coca Cola regain marketshare and the combined marketshare of all of Coca Cola’s brands managed to overtake the combined marketshare of Pepsi’s brands. By the late 1990s, Thums Up regained its crown as the top cola brand in India and there was no stopping. The Thums Up brand just refused to die. However, the same was not the case with Gold Spot, Limca & Citra which were mercilessly killed and there were still no signs of revival.

We shall conclude this series with the final part tomorrow.

Final part:

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