Marketing Briefing: How Fanta is modernizing its brand to appeal to Gen Z

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Major marketers are spending more time on brand refreshes — as Digiday previously reported, the recent wave of brand building requests for proposals makes that clear. Throughout 2023, Fanta was one of those marketers as the soda brand sought to modernize its look as well as its product to appeal to younger consumers, particularly Gen Z.

The brand refresh is just one aspect of how Coca-Cola-owned Fanta is aiming to appeal to Gen Z today, according to Dane Callis, brand director at Fanta North America, who explained that with this effort Fanta wanted to be more consistent across international markets given consumers’ awareness of global differences with brands now. Callis also detailed Fanta’s approach to real-time marketing and TikTok trends, how the brand is managing Google’s third-party cookie depreciation and why marketers need to get comfortable with less control of their brands.

This Q&A has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity. 

Why rebrand? What does that do for Fanta?

The rebranding was part of an overall strategy to really modernize the brand and make it more relevant for today’s consumers, for Gen Z, teens. That took on the logo, the colors and how it shows up but it also took on the product that we actually sell. [We wanted to] make sure we were delivering the best-tasting product consumers can actually have. Then it was the marketing, modernizing the marketing so that Fanta’s position was for 2023 and beyond, not for the ‘90s and early ‘00s. That means a much larger push into social media, digital experiences, to bring the aesthetics of Fanta to life in more ways than just drinking the product.

What pointed to the need for a rebrand now?

Part of it was for differentiation, making sure we’re showing up differently than our competitors and not just within the soda space but beyond that, because everyone is offering different flavors. The reality is that consumers know that Fanta is this gigantic, global brand, with a global presence and global flavors. If a teenager in the U.S. was talking to a friend in Japan that they game with, they would see two different Fantas. They would see a certain version in one market and a certain one here. The reality is they want that here as well so part of our efforts [went beyond] differentiating in the market but also conversion to have one global brand identity that all of our consumers could participate in, so it was also a convergence effort between ourselves and other markets.

Why does brand consistency globally matter more now?

Consumers have a global awareness now that they did not have, we did not have, 15, 20 years ago. Our platforms have global footprints they did not have before. We were very segmented in Facebook, you could have a different page per country, but TikTok is a global platform and so you need one global voice for consumers around the world to interact and experience.

Why wait until 2023 to get on TikTok?

As a very large company with some very large, loved brands, I believe we hold ourselves to a higher standard than maybe some competitors, not just in our space but others. That doesn’t just apply to the guardrails we put around our products. It also applies to our marketing and communication channels and where we go to ensure that we’re being responsible with where we communicate and how we communicate to. We have those guardrails in place to ensure we do things the right way. We may not have been the first to market when it comes to TikTok but our intention is to be the best.

The trend cycle is so fast now, especially on TikTok. What’s trending today might not be tomorrow, making it difficult for brands to tap into trends. How do you navigate that?

Real-time marketing obviously plays a much larger role in our lives than ever before. It’s important for Fanta and other brands to understand that our communication with consumers is not linear or transactional in the way that it used to be. Going back to linear TV, [a brand] pushes a commercial out and hopes that you like it and purchase the products. For us, it’s not about driving the conversation or trying to create the conversation or insert ourselves late to the conversation to try to have some word around it. I think it’s honestly enabling consumers to drive it themselves, which requires you to let go a little bit and even give the keys to the brand, how consumers use it and access it more openly than you have [before].

It’s a tricky pivot for a lot of marketers. They’re the stewards of their brands but they don’t have total control anymore. How do you manage that in a way where it’s beneficial for the brand?

We’re here to serve the consumer. Best way to do that is to let them tell you. Trust them that they know what they’re doing. I don’t have too many qualms with it.

There’s been a lot more energy around owned and earned media rather than just paid. Has that been part of the strategy for Fanta’s TikTok?

Yes, in general. Staying on top of TikTok trends, I’m sure you’ve seen recent news around TikTok Shopping and some of the backlash to that with brands and products forcing themselves in places they shouldn’t be. Paid is a great way within social to amplify a message you have across different channels but that’s not why TikTok exists. It’s exists for creativity, expression and conversation so that’s how we would rather use that specific channel and that’s what we are doing.

Gen Z is spending more time in areas where brands can’t reach them as easily, like group chats and Discords. Aside from TikTok, how are you trying to reach this younger target?

We’re being very thoughtful. Lemon8 is another [platform]. There are constantly new places for connection for consumers where they’re trying to get away from brands and the consumerism side of it. There’s a place and time for brands to show up. What I love about Gen Z is that they hold authenticity in such a high regard and they’re so well-informed that we say they have a very high BS-meter. They know when and where they’re being advertised to and so they have reactions [to that]. With their entrepreneurial spirit, they manage these connections and find these cozy spaces. Our job is to help consumers feel better about the day with something delicious. There’s a place and a time for that. Then there are times where we shouldn’t be around.

Google is finally starting to crumble the third-party cookie. Is that factoring into decision-making yet with where you’re spending or how you’re showing up digitally? Is it changing anything just yet?

It is. I can’t speak to the specifics of what we’re doing about it. It’s impacting us as much as any other brand in that you don’t have this third-party access to data to learn more about your consumers and serve them better. Naturally, we still want to serve our consumers in the best way possible which does require understanding more information about them. So outside of just the internet and Google, we do surveys every month with over 20,000 consumers to understand our brands, what they’re drinking, what they’re not drinking, why they’re drinking those beverages, when they’re drinking, all sorts of questions so we can have a better understanding. When one source of information ceases to exist that doesn’t mean you no longer can gain some data through other efforts or other access points. We will follow the guidelines and laws set in place so we look forward to being able to connect with consumers on their terms and respect their privacy the way they would like to see it.

We recently spoke with Tropicana about how they’re managing it and they said they’re focusing on retail media and first-party data. Would you say you’re taking a similar approach?

It’s one component of our strategy. We do have amazing partners and they do have their own media buying platforms that are quite large themselves, so they’re partners for us in being able to learn more about our consumers and where they shop. It doesn’t mean we change and drop everything we’ve been doing right and just stop and focus on this other piece. It’s a matter of adapting to a new normal and going from there.

By the numbers

In today’s fragmented advertising landscape, streamlining the customer experience may be top of mind for advertisers to not only attract new customers, but retain them. However, brands may be overestimating how many people prefer a digital experience at every stage of their experience with a brand, according to recent research from Merkle. Find more data points from the study below:

  • When it comes to consumers’ view on brands’ use of customer data, only 48% generally trust how that company is collecting or using their personal data, and 38% believe that data is to ultimately benefit their customer experience.
  • For brands tailoring their communications and offering personalized experiences, 45% shared it’s useful for them. With that, 56% of those respondents were aged 18 to 34, proving the younger generations are freer with their personal data.
  • 20% or more of consumers across all industries strongly prefer human experiences when requesting support. — Kimeko McCoy

Quote of the week

“We’ve had more interest in this [alternatives to third-party cookies] during this early part of the year than we had for the whole of 2023.”

— Georgie Haig, product lead of identity at programmatic marketing agency MiQ, when asked about marketers testing cookie alternatives given Google’s Chrome changes.

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