Diet soda has been a staple in grocery stores, refrigerators and vending machines since the 1980s. But now, the branding of diet products is changing — but not the product itself.
Companies are moving away from the word "diet" in marketing in favor of the phrase "zero sugar." That's because younger generations are ditching diet mentality and focusing on overall health.
"They still want what's in the can. They just want you to call it something different," said Kelly Goldsmith, a marketing professor at Vanderbilt. "So, for a lot of these cola companies that produce zero-calorie product, zero-sugar product, we may see them calling them just that, when in actuality, it's still a diet product that's in the can, the way that we knew it from before."
Goldsmith said companies see the value in changing how they market their diet or low-calorie products, but she says they should still be mindful of longtime customers.
"When you get customers that consume that much of a brand and that much of a product, they really see it as a part of their core identity, and it's really hard when you shake that for consumers when they can no longer find that product that they really folded into their lives," she said.
Instead, Goldsmith says companies should focus on niche marketing strategies for customers who want a change but still keep around original products to which longtime customers have been loyal.