If transparency creates trust between the brand and the consumer, and in turn wins over skeptical consumers, Coca-Cola is doing just the opposite.  Marketing healthy food?  Learn from their mistakes.

By funding studies that support the findings they want, Coca-Cola is doing the exact opposite of what brands need to do to win over skeptical consumers. Consumers hear every day that they should be feeding their families healthy food. And as they become more knowledgeable, they want brands to be honest about what is in their product.

Coke provided, $1.5 million in financial support, in addition to logistical support for a new nonprofit Global Energy Balance Network. The study they funded found that weight- conscious Americans are overly fixated on how much they eat and drink, while not paying enough attention to exercise. How convenient.

Interestingly, the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana announced the findings of a large study on exercise in children. It determined that lack of physical activity “is the biggest predictor of childhood obesity around the world”. Coca-Cola also funded this study.

While Coke may believe these studies will help deflect criticism about the role sugary drinks play in the spread of obesity, it is actually drawing attention to Coca-Cola’s dishonesty. The New York Times published an article “Coca-Cola Funds Scientists Who Shift Blame for Obesity Away From Bad Diets” which points out many health experts disagree with the study. One independent study found that even if adults doubled the weekly amount of exercise recommended, but did not change their diet they only lost about 3 pounds over the course of a year.

A recent analysis found that studies funded by Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, the American Beverage Association and the sugar industry were five times more likely to find no link between sugary drinks and weight gain than studies whose authors reported no financial conflicts.  Those marketing healthy food would find that very suspicious.

Today consumers do their research and absolutely notice these types of disparities. The beverage industry tactics are being compared to the tobacco industry tactics of the 1990s that destroyed the image of the tobacco companies in the eyes of Americans. These findings are having the opposite effect that Coke wants them to. They are making consumers more skeptical of Coke, not more likely to buy it.

Consumption of full calorie soda by the average American has dropped by 25 %, and this is just the beginning. Today’s consumers want to be assured what they believe about a brand is right.

If Coke was more transparent and acknowledged that their product may be better in moderation, even though they might initially lose some sales volume, it would go a long way to giving todays consumers what they are really after­—a brand they can trust.  That’s what marketing healthy food is all about.