Grassroots marketing of Coca-Cola's new product, Dasani bottled water, through use of "street teams"
During the summer of 1999 Phillips-West Public Relations and Communications was one of several firms selected nationally by Coca-Cola to provide marketing and sampling of its new bottled water product, Dasani. The target audience for this project was similar to the soft drink giant's Diet Coke audience, the primary consumer identified as Self-Assured Balancers , described as independent proactive women ages 25-39, who are seeking to balance family, work, relationships and self, "putting so much into their day they need to replenish what's been taken out." The secondary target was males ages 30-49.
Phillips-West's distribution regions included five Midwestern cities (Kansas City, MO; Kansas City, KS; Wichita, KS; Topeka, KS and Lawrence, KS). The promotion ran for a three-month period during the summer months of June through August. The promotion featured local event marketing and faceto- face sampling in some of the largest Coca-Cola distribution markets in five major regions throughout the US.
The objective was to distribute 20,000-40,000 20-oz bottles each (in each target city) of Dasani through the creative use of logo-branded reefer trucks and vans in conjunction with stress relief experiences which included chair massages provided by local massage training school students, white chairs and white bistro tables with coordinating blue and white umbrellas and blue bean bag chairs for children to play on. Distribution locations included retail chains/outlets, National Association of Female Executive events, high schools and colleges, music and movie events, malls and shopping centers, outlet malls, dietary companies, special events, cultural and arts programs, fairs/conventions/parades, fitness centers, parks and beaches, central business districts and corporations, etc.
Phillips-West was responsible for identifying distribution locations that would provide the most exposure for the product through strategic locations and large numbers of potential consumers. Once Phillips-West identified these key distribution outlets and received approval from each entity, an "on-site" distribution contract was obtained for each event. Then, Phillips-West would work with each individual entity to crossmarket through flyers, newsletters, company PA systems, etc. to inform their respective patrons or employees that a Dasani sampling (branded The Dasani Experience ) would take place on site for three to four hours.
Street teams would commence to distribute "ice-cold" bottles of Dasani and other Dasani promotional items such as note pads and pens. The traveling equipment in addition to the tables and chairs, etc. included specially designed service stands and backpacks from which the street teams would serve and distribute the bottled water on foot in the designated area. To meet the goal of samples per city, we scheduled an average of three events per day, ie, in the morning we might go to a large hospital and setup in their employee commons area or cafeteria, at noon we would book a retail store and in the evening we would be on site at a health club or a cultural program.
The street team employees were recruited, screened, interviewed and hired by Phillips-West. The teams were made up of workers who distributed bottled water to patrons either from a service stand or via a backpack, and we also employed licensed drivers whose job it was to drive the van and truck daily to the local Coca-Cola plant to pickup product, to an ice company to get ice and back and forth to each site. These vehicles also stored the "site and set-up" equipment. The large truck was always parked on or near the site so that the outside of the truck, which featured a large Dasani logo, could be utilized as a traveling billboard.
Phillips-West worked with two local radio stations as partners to co-sponsor and promote special events in locations where the " Dasani Experience " would be marketed to larger audiences, where a minimum of 5,000 bottles of water could be handed out. Such events might include an outdoor theater or concert or a sports event. Coca Cola didn't include a budget for radio buys so Phillips-West opted to partner with non-profit groups that were presenting special events so that the radio station would be able to contribute airtime and/or Dasani would be able to piggyback onto their Public Service Announcements. Also, Phillips-West was able to garner "free publicity" for Coca-Cola by identifying and pitching story ideas to other broadcast media that coincided with our bottled water promotion. For example, because the promotion was staged during the summer months, Phillips-West persuaded a couple of TV stations to cover the Dasani promotion based on the angle of the heat factor...for example, How does Kansas City cool off on a hot summer day? (See samples of news coverage)