Coca-Cola is running a stealth advertising campaign.
Stealth? Yes, it’s a nationwide product promotion that’s being run below the public radar! Why would a corporation as ad-dependent as Coke spend big bucks on advertising that it doesn’t want consumers to notice? Shhhh — because the 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,” 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 waitstaff suggestive selling techniques to convert requests for tap water into orders for revenue-generating beverages.”
The program provides a guide for restaurant managers who agree to direct Coke’s sneak attack on customers. It also supplies a handy backroom poster to remind waitstaff “when and how to suggestively sell beverages,” plus 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 U.S.
Early in its Cap the Tap scheme, the beverage behemoth offered two incentive programs for waitstaff: “Suggest More and Score” and “Get Your Fill.” Both were competitions meant to spur servers to push more Coke on American restaurant-goers.
To add a splash of bitter irony to this campaign, Coke’s CEO recently declared that “obesity is today’s most challenging health issue,” adding piously that solving it requires “all of us working together and doing our part.” Really — by selling more Coke? That’s proof that hypocrisy is now the official rocket fuel of corporate profits.