Selling The Cola

Copyright © by Len Holman, 3/28/13


  The boardroom was packed.  On one side of the huge polished table sat the cola executives just making their bones in the company, studying the latest sales figures.  On the other side of the table were the veterans and true believers of the company, and they, too, had those same figures.  Standing before them was the chairman of the Super Cola Company’s parent company, the Great Old Patent Corporation.

  “Ladies and gentlemen, you have before you two reports.  One, our latest sales figures, which are, may I state the obvious?—abysmal.”  He cleared his throat.  “The second report is my recommendations for improving our brand’s acceptance in the general population.  As you can see—“

  He was immediately interrupted by a woman on his right.

  “I read your so-called recommendations and they are ridiculous!” she spat.  “There is no need for any of that—what I would call pandering—to the public.  This is good cola, solid taste, and one small blip in our figures---“

  An older man, a long-time exec with the firm interrupted.  “This may be a good cola, but no one wants to buy it anymore.  My figures show a steady decline among a lot of our target groups, including young people, who would ordinarily gulp this stuff by the case—well,” he admitted sheepishly, “they SHOULD be gulping it by the case.  All the groups that we want to drink our stuff are drinking our competitors’ stuff.”

  The right side of the table exploded in an angry babble.  One younger exec pounded the table in frustration.

  “We don’t need a new drink.  We have a drink, and it’s called Super Cola!  There is no need to abandon the principles that made our cola great!”

  Amid the ensuing noise, the chairman held up his hand for quiet.  “Please!  I’m not recommending we start from scratch, just that we re-position ourselves in the market.  Re-branding is what I’m saying.  It’s a time-honored procedure—“

  “Re-branding!” sputtered a man with a southern drawl.  “Ok, maybe we do need to tweak our image a little—“

  “No, definitely not!”  One of the most senior executives with the parent company stood, his hand shaking, his cheeks red with anger.

  “I’ve been with this company a long time. I’ve seen our cola slugged down by the public, and it’s the same stuff we make now. I firmly, devoutly, believe that tinkering with success is a big—“

  “Success?” the chairman asked, raising his eyebrows.  “Fewer and fewer of our target groups are drinking our cola—no African Americans, no kids, no Hispanics—“

  “Latinos,” said a young woman at the end of the table.  “They call themselves Latinos.”

  “Whatever,” the chairman said, clearly perturbed.  “They’re not drinking it.  LGBT people are not even throwing the bottles at our sales people.”

  “We have no chance to sell to them anyway,” the old exec said.  “You can’t sell everyone, you know.  They don’t make up much of our market.”

  “But they’re a growing sector,” someone said, reading his pages.  “They could be a factor someday.”

  “There’s about forty-seven percent out there that will NEVER drink our stuff unless we do something to goose up our appeal,” a balding man said.

  “All we need,” said a strident voice, “is to change our salespeople to ones who really believe in Super Cola.  Just go out to those groups and SELL it.  It’s worked before and it will work again.  Maybe better ads, maybe some billboards.”

  One of the women on the chairman’s right shook her head.  “I agree this is a great cola and that we don’t NEED to change anything at all.  We must BELIEVE, we must PUSH, we must ENDURE!”

  The chairman called for quiet. “It seems we’re divided as to how to improve our sales, but not divided on the question of whether we WANT to.  We DO want to, so we need to come to some resolution…”

  The entire right side of the table stood as one.  “We have a better cola than those other guys,” the old executive said firmly.  “It’s good for our customers and because it makes them feel better, they do better work and have better lives, so in fact, it’s good for our country.  And I will NEVER waver from that philosophy!”  The others nodded and followed him out the door.  There was a long moment of silence before the chairman spoke.

  “This is going to be a problem…but one we can fix,” he told the remaining members.  “We’ll change our ads, redo the bottles—put in some bright colors, use different language, hire more celebrities, phrase things in a different way.  It’ll be the same stuff, just re-packaged.  We’ll be right back on top before you know it.”

  The rest of his team nodded and smiled.  They all left except for one young lady of indeterminate color.  She shook her head.

  “Something wrong?” the chairman asked.

  “Sir,” she said earnestly, “what if—after all that packaging and re-wording—our cola still doesn’t sell?  I mean,” she rushed on, “what if—no matter what we do—the people out there, the customers, just don’t LIKE the stuff?”

  He had no reply except this: “I don’t want to think about it.”


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