Coca-Cola, stung too many times by marquee roll-outs that become bombs is, I think, trying a new tactic. Instead of the all out media shock-and-awe blitz that so spectacularly failed New Coke and OK Cola, they've been releasing tiny, barely advertised brands into the field. Then they sit back and let the invisible hand weed out the winners and the losers. Since 2000 we’ve seen C2, CZero, Vanilla Coke, Diet Vanilla Coke, Diet Coke with Lemon, and Diet Coke with Lime. By my count, this year alone (and its only February) we've got the Tab re-launch, Black Cherry Vanilla Coke, and Vault. Part of this strategy seems to be to avoid making potentially disastrous decisions in the lab or C-markets. Instead they release every slight variation and let the consumer make the call. Why research which is the better bet – lemon or lime – when you can cut ad and market costs, release both, and know for certain which has a future? Clever. It is all the more curious if you consider Coke is a company whose marketing is so pervasive that we think of Santa as dressing in Coke's corporate colors. That these guys should be spearheading some sort of post-ad/marketing approach to brand and product management is odd.
Enough with the Coke overview. I've gathered you all here to talk about the ambiguously named Vault. Potentially named after a leap or a place where you lock things up, Vault, as the label informs us, is Coke's new "artificially flavored hybrid energy soda." The green, silver, and black label promises Vault "drinks like a soda, and kicks like an energy drink."
Sadly, the understated approach of the Tab energy drink reincarnation was not carried through on this label. The font for Vault looks like the fonts used to pitch "hi-tech" men's razors with thousands of blades. The letters are thick and chunky, but tipped to the left, giving one the impression of cartoon metal warped by extreme speed. The predominant color is a sort of mutant green, the sort of a-natural green we equate with the skin of monsters that march out of mad science labs.
The plastic bottle is the same alien green color. Above the label, the bottle dents in for hand grip (a conceit I've never understood: who's trying to drink this crap under conditions that would necessitate a special hand grip area?). The hand grip area has what appears to be a tire tread design on the surface. That ought to do it, Coke, thanks. No slip here. Just under the top, there are three embossed V's.
Flavor-wise, Vault is a distinct improvement from straight up energy drinks, which I find taste the way bad lettuce smells. It is thicker than power drinks, but not as thick as most sodas – light as ginger ale, really. It has a crisp orange taste (one of the major ingredients is concentrated orange juice) that is not as strong as Sprite or 7-Up. There is none of the roots-and-dirt aftertaste of ginseng.
This lack of aftertaste, pleasant as that is, brings up the biggest question I have about Vault: just what is the "energy drink" ingredient? In most energy drinks, it is a combo of caffeine and ginseng. A quick look at the ingredients list doesn't provide much of an answer. The ingredients list contains the usual suspects, but other than caffeine, common to most non-hybrid sodas, I don't see anything to suggest that Vault is any more a "hybrid" drink than, say, regular Coke. The soda itself is fine; that nasty after taste is marketing bullshit.
Fun Soda Facts
Sodium benzoate, found in Vault, is a common ingredient in both sodas and anti-freeze. Carob bean gum, another common soda ingredient found in Vault, is also known as locust bean gum and was used by ancient Egyptians to help preserve their dead. Though Coke won't tell you this for legal reasons, drinking Vault may very well turn you in to an un-killable mummy that never freezes solid in winter conditions. That's the straight dope, cats and kitties. See you on the other side, BYOV.
|< I can't help it... | BBC White season: 'Rivers of Blood' >|