Why are they shaming Simon Berry for making an important and valuable strategic change? #colalife

By | September 7, 2013

In my 2009 article “The 5Ds of BoP Marketing: Touchpoints for a holistic, human centered strategy” I used Simon Berry’s initial work, with Cola Life, as an example of innovative distribution models,  so:

Such “piggybacking” has been attempted on an existing tried and tested global distribution network as a way to distribute medicines to the neediest. Simon Berry has launched a scheme called colalife.org, an award-winning social media campaign launched this year to demonstrable success that sought cooperation from The Coca Cola Company in order to leverage their extensive and highly visible supply chain in the remotest parts of the developing world to distribute critical life-saving medicines such as ‘oral rehydration therapy’ for common waterborne diseases.

A status report from their Flickr group discussion board:
Before the Facebook group I was getting nowhere at all. The group has changed everything and is the reason we’ve made such rapid progress… Continuing support for the idea is vital if we are to turn this idea into a reality and actually save some lives.

Research and development of the campaign continues to evolve. The next objective is to get an international NGO to engage with the campaign. Meanwhile research is underway in East African into Coca-Cola’s distribution system and the feasibility of the idea is being investigated and reported in Simon’s blog.

Simon is to be commended for his brave, courageous act in acknowledging that the highly acclaimed and design award winning concept of packaging made to fit the Coke crate -the “Kit Yamoyo”, which has been recognized with The Design Museum’s inclusion in 2013 for product design – was not successful as a means to achieve his goals. Thus, regardless of the cool concept and the design innovation manifest in the packaging, he has stayed true to his real mission – how to distribute life saving medicine rapidly and cost effectively as Coca Cola does into every remote village shop on the African continent. And in order to do so, he has adapted his methods to suit the distribution channel.

Simon’s real achievement has been gaining access to Coca Cola’s trusted vendor and distribution network. Listen to what he says,

Berry replied: “We are piggybacking on Coca-Cola in the sense that we’re using their ideas, we’re using all their wholesalers, who are very well respected and know how to look after stuff, but putting the kits in the crates has turned out not to be the key innovation.”Berry also conceded that the concept of delivering the kits in Coca-Cola crates hadn’t worked in an interview with New Scientist magazine last month.“Instead, what has worked is copying Coca-Cola’s business techniques: create a desirable product, market it like mad, and put the product in a distribution system at a price so that everyone can make a profit. If there is demand and retailers can make a profit, then they will do anything to meet that demand.”
He’s learning how to scale, massively, from the master. If you have ever been anywhere remotely remote and then wondered how did that familiar red show up here, then there’s the start of your trail of clues.

Then why does that article sound like its trying to shame him for not using the shiny award winning design? And is that why other clunkers like LifeStraw or something solar clank along limpingly rather than attempt to deconstruct and start over from lessons learnt? What a sad waste of time and money…

 “I have to say Simon though, this is a bit of a con,” Day said on discovering the innovative strategy had been dropped. “You got this award for the design product of the year, very ingenious, very clever, because it fitted into a crate of bottles. You’ve abandoned the crate of bottles distribution now, so it comes in very conventional, ordinary packs. You’re nothing to do with cola now. In other words, the design is almost incidental.”

Way to go, Simon!

This post was written by niti bhan and rss originates from www.nitibhan.com

One thought on “Why are they shaming Simon Berry for making an important and valuable strategic change? #colalife

  1. Fruitcake

    Thanks for this assessment. Despite retailers not putting our kits in crates, we sold 20,470 kits in 6 months from a standing start. They we bought by retailers serving some of the poorest communities in Zambia. We went from 0% of children receiving the recommended ORS/Zinc treatment for diarrhoea to 42%.

    If we remove the constraint of our kits needing to fit into Coca-Cola crates there is a big opportunity to reduce the packaging costs significantly and make the crucial value chain work even better.

    We are not 'abandoning' the existing packaging as the Dezeen article implied. In fact we will be making up another 20,000 shortly. But we have been working with our packaging design partner – PI Global – on cheaper alternative formats and we should be in a position to share these shortly.

    Simon Berry


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