6 Lessons to Learn from the Resurgence of Surge

Coca-Cola company
Coca-Cola company

Did you catch the news about Surge this week? If you’re a child of the 90s you may remember the lemon lime flavored highly caffeinated soda that was marketed to thrill seekers and teen boys by the Coca-cola company. The drink disappeared from super market shelves in 2001 but thanks to a grassroots social media campaign, Surge is back. Well, maybe not at your local gas station, but you can order a case of it on Amazon.

A Facebook group raised $4000 to buy a billboard near Coca-cola's headquarters in Atlanta, GA. The billboard said: "Dear Coke, we couldn't buy SURGE, so we bought this billboard instead."

The response to the news of the resurgence of Surge was pretty overwhelming. Amazon sold out of the sugary drink twice on Monday. Coca-cola’s move with Surge is a pretty big one: it’s the company’s first product launch that relies solely on social and digital media.

This whole story of how rabid fans got their voices heard via social media and got the sugary energy drink they so longed for to be made available again got me thinking…

What is there to learn from the resurgence of Surge?

1. Millennials have grown up to be the first digital native generation that has real spending power. Not only do they know how to grow a movement via digital media or use Kickstarter to fund passion projects, but they are also beginning to make decent money themselves. Children of the 90s are no longer just whiny, selfish millennials.Millennials are beginning to have the spending power of established adults with the digital prowess of teenagers. Pretty lethal combination.

2. Listen to brand loyalists and get creative in meeting their requests. As my friend and mentor Ben Stroup says: “say yes until you have to say no.” Coca-cola isn’t spending millions bottling Surge and putting it in every grocery store and gas station. That's way too big of a gamble. But they can say "yes" by making it available on Amazon to the super fans who are willing to pay a little more for it. They’re paying attention to a passionate niche market instead of writing them off. Coke isn’t planning to sell Surge in stores again, but if the Amazon wave goes well, they just might. How can you wow your audience in a creative way and say “yes” to them in a creative way? Niche market brand loyalists have power. Don’t discount them.

3. Capitalizing on nostalgia is a thing. How many retro t-shirts have you seen sold at Target or Old Navy? New Kids On the Block and the Backstreet Boys have combined their powers to become one giant boy band nostalgia ride. The technology we use now has transformed our culture. People look back on the pre-Facebook, pre-smart phone, heck--pre-iPod days with fondness. How can you access this nostalgia in your business? What can you do to delight your audience by tapping into familiarity?

4. Pay attention to what your audience likes about a product or service. Some things need to stay the same to be effective. Would fans buy Surge with such gusto if it had a snazzy new 2014 design? HECK NO. They are drawn to the fact that it is the exact same sugary beverage with the exact same logo it had when they were a teen and life was much less complicated. Innovation has incredible value but some things are valuable because they have not changed.

5. E-commerce makes what was once impossible, possible. There was a time when selling a beverage to a niche market was just too expensive. But e-commerce is a game-changer. Niche products and e-commerce are a match made in heaven. As Coca-cola put it: e-commerce provides the “democratization of demand.” What speciality products or services could you make available through e-commerce?

6. Sometimes things have to be minimized, made rare, or go away altogether to get appreciated. What does this mean for you? Should you post less on social media? Increase your prices? Be a little less available? Surge was discontinued because it wasn’t the popular success Coca-cola wanted it to be. Now it’s been gone for 13 years and a passionate (albeit small) vocal group have missed it and brought attention to it. Rarity increases value. How can you apply that to your business?

The resurgence of Surge indicates that niche markets matter, voices can be heard and thanks to technology companies can delight their customers in more ways than ever before. How will you use it to wow your audience?