Coke Starlight is a Middle Finger to Consumers

Have you tried this new Coke? Released in late February 2022, it’s since been on gas station and grocery store shelves everyplace I go. Allegedly, it is like traditional Coke but made to encapsulate both the feelings of staring at a campfire and being in the stillness of space. Coca-Cola claims their creation came from their recent work with NASA and aims to target this product to Gen Z.

I tasted it today and have to say I absolutely hated it. I don’t like sugary drinks (or fake-sugary drinks) because they leave me feeling queasy, but I went for it for the sake of this dang article. Initially, I tasted traditional Coke but it ended with an aftertaste of too-sweet cotton candy and a burnt s’more. But you know what, I don’t think Coca-Cola really cares what I think it tastes like. Why? Coke Starlight was designed to be purchased not enjoyed.

“Whoa whoa… Becky you’re saying Coke made something and they don’t care how it tasted?”

Yeah, exactly. Coca-Cola doesn’t need to know if I like the taste of their product, they just wanted me to buy it and try. Tons of marketing when into the packaging, the color, the rhetoric of why it “tastes like stars”.

Simply put, they knew they didn’t even need to make a tasty product. The intention of the product wasn’t to add value to anyone’s life. It was simply created to sell. Instead of adding value to our world, Coca-Cola decided to fabricate a gimmick, a quick flip, a marketing smoke show.

Pictured above, the Zero Sugar variety of Coke Starlight- bad taste with added pizzazz of the ever-controversial aspertame.

So why did Coke make it?

Because capitalism let them. Capitalism is the large-scale corporate-led brainwashing that has made us all believe that money is more important than happiness or fulfillment. Capitalism is what wakes many of us up at night, and it’s behind many of the large decisions made on a large scale. The choice to throw out Coke Starlight is no exception.

So how is Coca-Cola going to make money on this crappy product? It’s simple:

Brand Loyalty

Coca-Cola knows they’ve created brand loyalty. Their own online store boasts 647 items. That’s 647 different ways that Coca-Cola has continued to get away with advertising on the literal backs of the people they’re exploiting from. Even the resell market for vintage and unique Coca-Cola merchandise is huge. Check out this clock that you can score on eBay for a $67k investment.

A screenshot from the eBay listing above. This BAIRD Coca Cola Clock and its price tag are a testament to the loyalty people have to Coca Cola’s brand identity.

Another way to know that Coca-Cola has brand loyalty is to look at their commercials. Any company that can get away with never talking about their product has curated a strong brand identity. Whether it’s heartwarming polar bears or perhaps you want to, “Buy the World a Coke”- no one is talking about the sugary caramel-colored bubbles or the way they solve any of life’s actual problems.

If Coca-Cola makes something, puts their name on it, and literally does nothing else. It will sell. That’s the mirage they’ve manifested. Coke Starlight wouldn’t be selling if it was an off-brand disgusting beverage that tasted like too-sweet smokey water.

Scarcity

Fear sells- that’s all there is to it. Even in recent attempts to get youth to stop smoking, it’s repeatedly shown that one of the top strategies is to literally just scare the crap out of them with the dangers of cigarettes. Fear is visceral, all-encompassing, and often infinite when we unlock our own anxieties. When people are scared of something, they’re more likely to panic and hit the “buy” button or throw something in their carts. (I know because I literally have three cans of “emotional support tuna fish” that I keep in my pantry at all times- I’m scared of running out and being hungry for lunch)

The worst fear? FOMO. We all want to find acceptance among our larger community. We want to relate to our neighbors, go to the popular restaurant, or see what’s trending. Brands, like Coca-Cola, can manufacture this fear of missing out by creating scarcity. A brand, especially one of the scale of Coca-Cola, gets to decide how much of a product they’ll be releasing. When Coca-Cola decided to release Coke Starlight they chose scarcity. The product won’t be available after August 2022. Six months after release and Coke Starlight merch becomes just another overpriced eBay listing. They’re not counting on you being repeat buyers, they’re counting on you to just try it once because you’re too scared you’ll miss your chance.

Corporate Brainwashing

Perhaps the most infuriating reason why Coca-Cola released a gross product is because they can.

No one is stopping them. They can get away with manipulative marketing tactics, with exploitive business practices, and a crappy product because we let them.

Mr. Coca-Cola isn’t a person sitting in an office that cares about you. Coca-Cola is a worldwide brand that profited over 38 billion dollars last year. If Coca-Cola wanted to, they could literally “buy the whole world a Coke” twice over.

It’s time we stop expecting businesses to act as if they care about us. It’s simply not possible. And Coke Starlight is just the latest example of a corporation actively abusing us while we continue to let them get away with it.

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Becky Meadows

Becky Meadows

Writing about mental health, personal growth, writing, UX, marketing, food, and more! Open to help your brand grow: rebeccananns1@gmail.com