published Sunday, November 28th, 2010

Double-Cola re-launching iconic brand

Eyes more universal design to broaden appeal

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    Staff Photo by Laura-Chase McGehee/Chattanooga Times Free Press/ Nov 16, 2010 - Prototypes of possible new Double-Cola designs are affixed to a display board at the Double-Cola offices in Chattanooga. Double-Cola is revamping its branding and marketing.

U.S. Army Sgt. Darrin Dant couldn't find his favorite drinks where he was stationed in Iraq, so he recruited his friends and family to mail bottles of Double-Cola and Ski to his post.

"They're like a taste of home," he said. "I had them wrap the bottles really carefully in case they exploded on the way."

Michael Powell, a resident of Frankfort, Ky., can't get the drink where he lives, but he recently drove three hours to Central City, Ky., to get some Double-Cola.

"For me, there is something nostalgic about Double-Cola," he said. "I keep an eye out for it."

Double-Cola at times engenders "fanatical loyalty" in its customers, which is why the company's rebranding campaign, which will launch in March 2011, is so important, said Alnoor Dhanani, president of the Chattanooga-based company.

"It has to be a more universal design" to appeal to the growing numbers of international cola consumers, he said. "Usually we find out the more simple the design, the better it sells."

The current Americana design of the bottles, cans and packaging was last freshened up in 1999, featuring denim stitching and an evocative, retro logo. And while the company wants to broaden its appeal, it's not in a hurry to alienate its existing customer base.

"In the U.S., we're a smaller player, but we have good customers, very loyal," Dhanani said.

Still, it's time to change the iconic brand, which got its start in 1933 by launching in a 12-ounce bottle that was twice the size of competitors, while advertising "double" the flavor.

After years of slow growth, company officials say Double-Cola grew sales by double digits in 2009 and 2010, endowing it with the cash necessary for a major marketing push. In 2010 alone, Double-Cola has grown by 14 percent in the U.S. and 30 percent internationally.

"We've had a desire to change the branding for a long time," said Gina McCommon, director of marketing. "We want to put the heritage back in it. We want people to know there's something behind the brand."

Double-Cola hired New York-based S2 Design to create hundreds of prototypes, from which company executives will choose a final design by January 2011. By the end of the first quarter, the new bottles and cans will start rolling out to store shelves in key markets like Huntsville, Ala., Memphis, and Evansville, Ind., said McCommon.

"It's very labor intensive," she said. "We started the planning process for the new labels over a year ago."

Changing a label isn't just a simple matter of hitting a couple of keys on a factory terminal and pressing a green 'go' button, she said. Designers must create hundreds of candidate labels, and all except one will never see the light of day. And while cola makers rarely tinker with successful flavors, sweeteners are constantly tweaked or changed, as when the company recently switched from Aspartame to Splenda in Diet Ski.

Next, the company has to manufacture and send out new printing plates to bottlers. The plates are used to stamp designs on the company's various sized cans and bottles, a printing system similar to how a newspaper is created, said McCommon.

Finally, executives will roll out the new drinks market-by-market, shuffling old products to stores in other cities and replacing them with the newly-designed beverages.

None of this can happen without the cooperation of distributors, the partner companies that own the trucks transporting Double-Cola and the company's 50 other brands.

However, most domestic distribution networks in the soft drink industry are owned by or affiliated with competitors Coca-Cola and Pepsi, who prefer not to carry cola competitors in their trucks, McCommon said. Rampant consolidation in the distribution industry, the main bottleneck to growth, forces Double-Cola to look elsewhere to get its flagship drinks to market.

"A lot of partners we've added have been beer distributors, who have been looking for new revenue," McCommon said.

The company recently brought on 10 new distributors, she said, including some that distribute Miller and Coors products.

International markets, on the other hand, are less saturated, allowing Double-Cola more room to grow overseas.

"Internationally, the markets are still in the growth phase, and consumption is still literally a fraction of what it is here in the U.S.," Dhanani said. "We expect higher increases in growth overseas than we do here in the U.S."

Still, with the re-launch of Double-Cola in the U.S., more distributors could come on board, getting the product into more consumers' hands, he said.

"The U.S. market is very competitive, but I don't know a market that isn't," Dhanani said. "There may have been a few bumps, but our soft drink is part of the American psyche."

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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mkelley said...

It's a shame that they didn't look to one of the wonderful design companies in Chattanooga or at least in the State of Tennessee.

November 28, 2010 at 12:10 a.m.
marylawton said...

Ever wonder about all the free stuff you see on the web? It appears like everybody wants to give stuff away for nothing, nada, zilch. But are these items truly free of charge? If so, how can these companies afford to give away all of these coupons and samples? It’s truly all about you, the consumer. We live in a very competitive world marketplace place. The internet has upped the ante in terms of who could be seen and heard via all with the mass media. Now companies need to make lots of noise and this is one way that can do it. One of the best place on the web is called "123 Get Samples" and get your free stuffs

November 28, 2010 at 1:02 a.m.
bobw said...

and right about now New York-based S2 is completely freaking out that the TFP and Double Cola allowed their prototypes to be released to the public.

November 29, 2010 at 8:59 a.m.
mehboobj said...

Double Cola was purchased by my fatber noorally k j dhanani many years ago , he brought his nephew alnoor dhanani to run the business he lent him 300k usd cash plus another 1.5mln usd to buy shares in double cola , my father died 5 years ago and alnoor dhanani now claims he is president of double cola he has removed my fathers name from the shareholders register and does not reply to any of my emails so i can claim my rightful share . mehboob

January 10, 2011 at 12:50 p.m.
rayd said...

I grew up on Double Cola as a kid. Thats all my Dad would buy and all the kids loved it. There was also Jumbo Orange, Strawberry and Grape made by Double Cola. Damn I miss them!! These were 16 ounce bottles!!

March 1, 2012 at 8:48 a.m.
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