E-Coke -- It's the Real Thing

SAN FRANCISCO (04/10/2000) - Coca-Cola said today that it will sell its branded merchandise on a new Web site by early summer. It's the first of many online ventures that the company has planned in order to extend what is already one of the world's strongest brands.

More than a year in the making, the site will take Coca-Cola's $1 billion-plus merchandising business online in an attempt to reinforce the company's brand.

The company operates four stores and sells licensed merchandise through retailers such as Wal-Mart and FAO Schwarz. The Coke brand consistently ranks among the most robust worldwide, but the company has been slow to embrace the Net as a marketing channel.

Coca-Cola has recently renewed its focus on innovation as a reacting to poor performance in recent years, "Collectively, we're developing strategies around the Internet, and some of them are getting rolled out sooner than others," says Andrew Lelchuk, manager of Coke's electronic-commerce group. "You may see a number of other initiatives to follow." The new site will allow visitors to view branded Coke products in various indoor and outdoor settings.

The site will feature online games and contests that will award points that participants can use to buy Coke products and merchandise. In addition, the Web site will discuss Coke's products and detail the company's history. Coke executives say the company is considering a number of online initiatives, but they declined to outline any of the proposals.

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