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Reading the Market Runes

18th January 2016

Predicting the future has always been difficult. Civilizations have often held those who claimed to be able to foresee what lay ahead in high regard despite some flaws in the methods and a lack of reliable results. Indeed, one might observe that the real skill in a fortune teller is their capacity to reinterpret the outcome in real time and claim some credit for predicting down not up, good for bad, etc. Those who naturally focus on the future configuration of market opportunities are called trend-driven strategists in our terminology and in most organizations there will be at least a few who seem to have an uncanny knack for spotting opportunities that others have missed. The soft drinks market has been in the news recently with major player Coca-Cola reflecting on whether Coke Life is a success or not. Launched in 2014, the early signs were promising. The green label marked continued engagement with the idea of lower sugar levels than the standard variant but also tied into a perceived desire to avoid artificial sweetners. As the brand enters its third year, sales appear to be down and questions are being asked. Should they withdraw the product? Or perhaps the Life brand is an early signal of the splintering of a mass market into smaller and smaller niches where eventually the consumer will be able to design their own Coke with full fat, diet, zero, life, vanilla, cherry, citrus, caffeine, no caffeine, double caffeine, etc. as they see fit. If you knew which of these were true you could make a small fortune by advising Coca-Cola but in the absence of certainty there are still things that you can do to improve the robustness of your strategy.  That, after all, is the role of the strategist. For an interesting review of the Coke product roster (including the infamous New Coke story click here.

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