By Jim Hightower
Coca-Cola is running a stealth advertising campaign.
Stealth? Why would a corporation known for its iconic ads like Coke spend big bucks on advertising that it doesn’t want consumers to notice? Shhhh.
The soft drink giant’s campaign is a surreptitious ploy to enlist restaurants in a marketing conspiracy that targets you, your children, and — of course — your wallet.
Coke calls its covert gambit “Cap the Tap.” It’s urging restaurateurs to stop offering plain old tap water to customers: “Every time your business fills a cup or glass with tap water, it pours potential profits down the drain.”
Cap the Tap can put a stop to that, says Coke, “by teaching [your] crew members or wait staff suggestive selling techniques to convert requests for tap water into orders for revenue-generating beverages.”
The program provides a guide for restaurant managers who would direct Coke’s customer assault, a backroom poster to remind wait staff “when and how to suggestively sell beverages,” and a participant’s guide to put “suggestive selling” foremost in mind as staff confronts the enemy… uh, I mean customers.
Tactics include outflanking those recalcitrant customers who insist on water. Just switch the sales pitch to bottled water — remember, Coca-Cola also owns Dasani, one of the top-selling brands of bottled water in the US.
Early in its Cap the Tap scheme, the beverage behemoth offered two incentive programs for wait staff: “Suggest More and Score” and “Get Your Fill.” Both were competitions to spur servers to push more Coke on American restaurant-goers.
Meanwhile, Coke’s CEO has declared that “obesity is today’s most challenging health issue,” and solving it requires all of us “doing our part.” Really? By selling more Coke? That’s proof that hypocrisy is now the official rocket fuel of corporate profits.
OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown.