published Thursday, March 8th, 2012

Chattanooga's Double-Cola gulps forceful makeover

These images show the results of Double-Cola’s latest rebranding. The company is pushing to appeal to a younger demographic with the new design, which is is simple and modern.
These images show the results of Double-Cola’s latest rebranding. The company is pushing to appeal to a younger demographic with the new design, which is is simple and modern.
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    Gina McCommon, director of marketing at the Double-Cola Co. talks about revamping the company's brand and marketing in this file photo.
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Chattanooga's iconic hometown soft drink is starting afresh.

Double-Cola announced Wednesday that it will retool its brand, targeting new cola quaffers as it seeks to expand market share at the expense of its much larger rivals, the Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo.

Officials say their latest effort is different from what the company now calls the "graphics change" that marked branding campaigns in 2010 and 2011.

This time, Double-Cola will change everything.

Double Cola has less than 1 percent of the soft drink market dominated by giants Coca-Cola and Pepsi.

But the Chattanooga-based soft drink has survived in part by selling in overlooked overseas and U.S. rural markets. A 2003 study of soft drink marketing by Joyce M. Wolburg, a communications professor at Marquette University, credits Double-Cola with "a winning strategy in the less-glamorous markets of rural America and the third world."

Now, Double-Cola is dropping its focus on blue jeans and baby boomers in favor of the younger, more chic world of college students and mid-20s professionals, said Mallory Browning, marketing manager.

"We really want to get that white-collar market," said Browning, who also overseas the company's new marketing campaign to college students.

The redesign isn't just new taglines, typography and colors, said Gina McCommon, company vice president. It's a radical departure from the company's long-term philosophy.

"It's always been the same stratagy, the all-American brand appealing to the all-American guy," McCommon said. "We've done redesigns, but we didn't ever change our brand strategy or positioning."

The new vivid, progressive redesign bucks the current soft drink trend of what she calls "sameness," and marks a departure from Double-Cola's previous minor updates.

"I would say that before it was kind of like having plastic surgery. Now it's like finding the fountain of youth to bring it back to life," McCommon said.

Her new domestic strategy also will play well against the more established brands, she said, offering consumers an alternative to regular colas.

"If you look at the cola brands out there, they all look like they're appealing to a similar market," which she describes as middle-aged, blue-collar workers.

Double-Cola's new market, on the other hand, consists of "males 18 to 24," She said. "It's the simple guy who likes simple things, someone who is working on his car, or has Double-Cola in a dorm or fraternity. He's your Levi's guy."

By sales volume, Double Cola is still an international company, with overseas sales still making up 60 percent to 70 percent of total revenue, McCommon said. And while Double-Cola has several new distribution agreements in the pipeline, including one that will expand distribution in North Georgia, that won't drastically affect employment in the Chattanooga corporate headquarters, which is primarily a sales and marketing office.

The dozen or so Chattanooga workers oversee bottling and distribution of Double-Cola, including the production of syrup at its Cincinnati plant. They'll also work to expand its underground marketing, McCommon said.

Aside from building painting, social media and a plan to install coolers into the trunk of several VW Beetles, the company isn't planning a big, splashy marketing campaign to take on its rivals, she added.

about Ellis Smith...

Ellis Smith joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in January 2010 as a business reporter. His beat includes the flooring industry, Chattem, Unum, Krystal, the automobile market, real estate and technology. Ellis is from Marietta, Ga., and has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication at the University of West Georgia. He previously worked at UTV-13 News, Carrollton, Ga., as a producer; at the The West Georgian, Carrollton, Ga., as editor; and at the Times-Georgian, Carrollton, ...

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