Coca-Cola’s new ‘Pixel’ flavor first appeared in Fortnite – KION546

Coca-Cola’s new ‘Pixel’ flavor first appeared in Fortnite – KION546

By Danielle Wiener-Bronner, CNN Business

On Monday, Coca-Cola filed a new limited edition flavor That’s it it’s supposed to taste like… pixels. Yes, pixels.

“Coca-Cola Zero Sugar Byte makes the intangible flavor of the pixel tangible,” Oana Vlad, Coca-Cola’s senior director of strategy, told CNN Business in an email. “Byte” is the second flavor to emerge from the company’s Coca-Cola Creations division, focused on digital experiences.

It’s fitting, then, that customers’ first glimpse of the pixel-inspired drink wasn’t in the real world, but in the video game Fortnite.

The product, which won’t be on sale in the US until next month, appeared globally in late March on an in-game island called Pixel Point. Players who get there can play different mini-games, including one that takes place inside a classic glass Coke bottle.

Coca-Cola also describes “Byte” as “the first Coca-Cola flavor born in the metaverse”, referring to a world where people’s digital avatars interact with each other in a virtual world.

That may well be the case, but beverage brands, including Coca-Cola, have long advertised directly to gamers. Red Bull has been active in the esports world for years, Monster Energy made waves when it was featured prominently in the game Death Stranding, and PepsiCo has even developed a product called Mountain Dew Game Fuel specifically for gamers.

“We think it’s important to be present in the spaces where gamers play,” said Vlad, noting that “Coca-Cola has long supported the gaming community.” The company has a partnership with video game developer Riot Games.

The drink’s debut in Fortnite is yet another sign of how brands are using video games to market their wares directly to gamers.

Food brands make their move

Snack makers are “definitely underrepresented” when it comes to advertising to gamers, said Caleb Bryant, associate director of food and beverage at Mintel.

But that is beginning to change. Cap’n Crunch virtual billboards have appeared in several games. Lunchable logos appear on Roblox. And Heinz sponsored rest areas can be found in Call of Duty.

It’s still early days, but food manufacturers believe there is a big advantage to this strategy.

Kraft Heinz, which owns Heinz condiments, Lunchables, Oscar Mayer and other brands, has started thinking more deliberately about how to market to gamers, said Sanjiv Gajiwala, the company’s director of US growth. Last year marked “the start of our marketing transformation,” he said, which includes “getting into games more intentionally.”

In December, Heinz launched an ad campaign within the Call of Duty first-person shooter. Here’s the gist: having a snack can open players up to attack from opponents. So, Heinz partnered with the game’s designers to establish safe spots in the virtual world, where player avatars could hide while grabbing a quick bite.

Around the same time, Lunchables launched a branded game within the Roblox kids’ gaming platform.

“It’s really important for us to recognize that gaming is more pervasive and an important part of today’s culture,” Gajiwala said.

As evidence of gaming’s relevance, Gajiwala pointed to Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard, maker of Call of Duty, Candy Crush, World of Warcraft and more. The tech company announced in January that it would pay nearly $70 billion for the gaming company, even though Activision and its controversial CEO had been accused of fostering a toxic work environment.

The Microsoft acquisition is just one piece of the puzzle. Globally, consumer spending on games, including subscriptions and in-app purchases, reached $180.3 billion in 2021, according to Newzoo, a gaming industry analytics firm. Newzoo predicts that spending will grow to $218.8 billion in 2024.

And it’s not just current gamers who are spending more money, but there are also more people who are becoming gamers. According to Newzoo, the number of people who said they had played games on computers, consoles or mobile devices in the last six months grew 5.3% globally in 2021 compared to 2020.

But for some big snack makers, including PepsiCo, the games are just the tip of the iceberg.

welcome to the metaverse

As gaming evolves, so does the food giants’ focus on advertising to gamers, said Adam Harter, senior vice president of media, sports and entertainment at PepsiCo.

“There was a time when we were looking at a brand like Mountain Dew and saying, ‘Well, Mountain Dew is the best choice for a gaming platform. So Mountain Dew is going to be the brand that we market and advertise around the games,’” he said. “That’s not the way we do it anymore. Now, for virtually all of our brands, this is an essential component of our media communications strategy.”

PepsiCo began marketing more products to gamers about three years ago, Harter said. In 2021, he worked with Anzu, a game advertising company, to place ads for Cap’n Crunch in various games. He has also promoted Doritos, Ruffles potato chips and, of course, Mountain Dew in those virtual spaces.

For Harter, it’s not enough to market more products to gamers in general. PepsiCo also has to reach different types of players.

“Gaming has exploded to such a massive audience,” he said. “It’s not just about those competitive players… I see this now as an opportunity to be more surgical in how we reach consumers.”

He also sees gaming as an entry point to the next wave of the web.

Games are “really the stepping stone into this new phenomenon that we call the metaverse,” he said. “As people live their lives in the metaverse more and more over the next few years…it is critical that brands like ours make sure we are where those consumers live their lives.”

The CNN Wire
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