business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kate McMahon

I never thought I would have anything in common with Kylie Jenner, the 20-year-old social media supernova, model, cosmetics maven and youngest celeb sibling on the reality show, “Keeping up with the Kardashians.”

But it turns out we were both disillusioned when the mobile messaging service Snapchat rolled out a major “update” that made the site difficult to navigate and prompted us both to give up following our friends’ photos and stories.

The only difference is I complained to my daughters, while Kylie sent out a tweet last week to her 24.5 million followers saying: "Sooo does anyone else not open Snapchat anymore? Or is it just me... ugh this is so sad.”

The result? The stock price of parent company Snap Inc. plummeted six percent, wiping out $1.3 billion of the company’s market value.

Kylie and I were also in good company, as the revamp has spurred 1.24 million users to sign a petition asking Snapchat to reverse the “annoying” changes. (For the uninitiated, Snapchat allows friends to share “snaps” – photos or videos – that disappear after 10 seconds as well as snap stories that are posted for 24 hours.)

The Snapchat team finally responded last week, acknowledging the concerns and promising to make some changes in coming weeks – but not reverting to the basic app.

Someone once said that “nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.”  Now, a Snapchat update may not qualify as great and sudden, but such things always are in the eye of the beholder.  To people who depend on Snapchat as a form of communication, change comes hard. It reminds me of 1985, when Coca-Cola introduced New Coke, prompting a fervent consumer backlash and the return of the Coca-Cola Classic formula just three months later.

Fast forward 33 years and we are currently seeing a retooling of Diet Coke flavors. Back in the ‘80s, diet soft drinks and non-cola beverages were siphoning market share away from the original Coke. Today, Diet Coke is losing sales to bottled water, energy drinks and flavored seltzers such as up-and-comer LaCroix, which boasts 15 flavors from plain and lime to blackberry cucumber and cantaloupe pink grapefruit.

Last month Coca-Cola introduced four new fruit-flavored versions of Diet Coke – Feisty Cherry, Twisted Mango, Zesty Blood Orange and Ginger Lime – in an attempt to lure younger consumers to the product. The drinks also come in a taller, thinner silver can (think Red Bull).

Coke admitted it was targeting Millennials “who are now thirstier than ever for adventures and new experiences.” But wisely, the beverage giant did not mess with the formula for Diet Coke, which is the go-to beverage for many in the demographic (my generation) that started drinking diet soda back in the ‘80s, and who found Diet Coke to be a welcome reprieve from Tab, which tasted more like metal shavings than we wanted to admit.

However, like many my age, I now limit my Diet Coke habit to one per day and drink more bottled water and flavored seltzers. I think Coke faces a major challenge maintaining its core clientele and attracting the 20-something sparkling water guzzlers who get their caffeine fix at Starbucks.

The challenge to Coke is to change things up while not changing them up too much, because going too far can generate considerable consumer opprobrium. The new flavors seem like they are an effort to replicate in packaging the experience that Coke has been offering in its Freestyle machines; it’ll be interesting to see if it comes full circle, and the Freestyle machine starts offering the new flavors.

Whatever happens, the goal is to avoid the Snapchat tumult.

By the way … While I have yet to return to Snapchat, Kylie Jenner returned this past weekend with a flourish: posting a video of her newborn Stormi.

So much for having something in common.

Comments? Send me an email at .

'; -->
KC's View: