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Closer to home, though, Coors may have to work harder. Zima sells well in the Midwest, and even better in parts of the South (although apparently not in South Florida), but it's a bust in urban California, home of all those hip Generation Xers.
"The challenge for Coors now with Zima is to figure out how to keep it fresh," says Michael Bellas, president of Beverage Marketing Corporation in New York. "The initial trial period is a natural high. Now Coors may need to add more flavors, since the low-alcohol refresher category is not a long-lasting one.
"The consumer is young and will move on to the next product. Zima had its peak; now Coors needs to rekindle interest," Bellas adds.
The brewery is working hard to lure Generations Xers back to the bottle. Today Zima not only has new ads, it has a new slogan. No longer is the drink "zomething different"; instead, it represents a group that has "zomething in common." The latest campaign, also designed by Foote, Cone & Belding, consists of a series of stylish black-and-white spots featuring male and female Generation Xers playing football and eating in a diner. There's no dialogue, only music by San Francisco composer Michael Boyd.
Consumers can have their say about Zima by calling the hotline number printed right on the bottle. The recorded voice on the other end of that number asks the callers' ages and about their drinking habits, then lets them listen to nine people give their opinions about Zima. After that, the callers have fifteen seconds to add their own two cents' worth. Zima customer-service reps report that most phone inquiries concern Zima's caloric and alcohol content.
And in keeping with its emphasis on attracting hip young drinkers, Zima has not only its own e-mail address (fans have suggested new flavors of mandarin orange and raspberry via e-mail), but also a page on the World Wide Web (http://www.zima.com).
"Just imagine a big Victorian house with a wraparound porch that sits on the ocean near Santa Cruz," says Jim Davis, creator of the Zima web site. "There are chairs outside on the porch and some candles. It's about 7:40 p.m. and the sun is just about to set. It's the magic hour. The candles are just starting to have a life of their own, and there's just enough daylight left for you to see each other. You are sitting outside enjoying the sound of the waves and the people you're with. Next to your side sits a big tin washbasin of icy-cold Zima bottles. That's what the Zima lifestyle is all about."
Davis calls Zima "a very sensual drink. I think the archetypal Zima drinker is Rachel that Jennifer Aniston plays on Friends," he explains. "Rachel has a very strong, comfortable sense of her own sensuality. She is a bubbly, effervescent, warm, loving person. She's not dumb and flighty like Phoebe and she's not as serious and self-dedicated as Monica. Rachel's more of a mixture of Monica's maturity and Phoebe's flightiness."
But then, Coors is banking on people like the characters on Friends and the twentysomethings who love the sitcom. In fact, Lee jokes that he wishes the brand team could afford to pay the Friends crew enough money to drink Zima on the show.
"A lot of the cast of Friends is very typical of the Zima personality," Lee says. "Zima is really about an understated confidence. Zima is not about arrogance; it's not about showing off. Zima drinkers are confident in themselves, and they don't feel like doing things just because everybody else does. These people make their own choices because individuality is important to them.
"Zima is about choice. It's not steeped in tradition like beer."
Coors recently announced that it was restructuring its sales, marketing, and operations units -- the better to focus on the business of selling beer.
Among other things, the changes mean that the new-product development unit -- which created Zima -- will be placed under the same marketing structure responsible for the established brands.
According to spokeswoman Lori Handfelt, the move was merely a matter of "integration and internal restructuring" that would allow the company to "better leverage resources." According to industry observers, Coors realized it was investing too much time and money in new products at the expense of its tried-and-true beers.