Ali Akbar
As a competitor launched and quickly grew to what is today’s second largest beverage brand in Pakistan, Coca-Cola responded with Sprite 3G. When Sprite 3G failed to overtake the competitor, the Company refocused and prioritized investment in Coca-Cola®, Pakistan’s leading brand, while the innovation team went back to the drawing board.

Ali Akbar, Coca-Cola’s Sparkling Director for the Middle East and North Africa Business Unit, and his team patiently and thoughtfully assessed the failures associated with Sprite3G’s launch – including recipe, bottle shape, branding position, brand name, and lack of bottling partner alignment – and applied the learnings to a new Patient Challenger brand, scheduled for launch in Pakistan. The new sparkling brand continues to perform favorably in consumer research.

Testing, learning from failures, and employing gained insights toward innovation is an encouraged method at Coca-Cola, where an agile culture is considered critical for growth. In fact, it’s now a celebrated method. Embracing Coca-Cola’s promoted “test-and-learn” approach earned Ali and his team a Celebrate Failure Award, one of three categories recognized through the company’s annual Global Innovation Awards.

“Our culture is changing, encouraging us to use failures to our advantage so we can celebrate them and continue to grow. We must be nimble but also patient, know when to change directions, invest wisely, and position our brands strategically,” said Ali. “Handling the fear of failure is probably the first step toward a successful innovation. It was amazing to get a phone call from a Business Unit president saying congratulations on your failure when I got that award.”

The new brand, which will be delivered in a beer bottle shape (popular packaging in the alcohol-free country), is positioned to compete in the male adult socialization segment, and relate to the fast-growing and well-entrenched night culture in Pakistan.

Pakistan is one of the top five countries contributing most to Coca-Cola’s global growth. It’s also leading the way in the company’s move to “digitize the enterprise.” Coca-Cola Pakistan’s strongest driver of brand edge, Coke Studio, is now the company’s largest digital asset with more than 1 billion views.