Coke Zone was the name of a loyalty points scheme operated by Coca-Cola from 2008 to 2013 across its range of soft drinks. By collecting codes printed on bottles, boxes and can ring pulls, the points you accumulate could buy money-off vouchers to use in stores, magazine subscriptions, cinema tickets and, if you were lucky, expensive electrical items like games consoles and cameras.
I have great memories of Coke Zone. Diet Coke is still my favourite drink, and because I rarely ever drink anything alcoholic, Diet Coke is often all I ever drink, apart from water. Introducing a loyalty scheme to a product for which I was already a loyal customer was very welcome indeed.
To be honest, I practically fleeced Coca-Cola when they ran Coke Zone. I diligently collected the codes to enter on their website to collect the points, and friends and work colleagues that knew I was collecting the codes gave me their bottles and cans to throw away, after I wrote the codes down. You were only allowed to collect fifty points per week, and while a 330ml can gave you one point, a 500ml bottle gave you two, and a multipack scored five points, I often reached their weekly limit due to the codes I was given.
In return, I received many things: 100 points could be exchanged for £5 vouchers to use at HMV to buy CDs and DVDs – before 2011, when HMV also owned the bookshop chain Waterstones, I could redeem them for books as well. I received quite a few tickets to watch films at my local cinema, also at 100 points each. I had a year’s free subscription to the film magazine “Empire.” I also had a money-off voucher for a clothes shop, which I remembered using on a pair of shorts.
The high point was when I actually caught a big-ticket item on the Coke Zone website, which often disappeared as quickly as they appeared: on a day off from work, having collected enough points to participate, I spent 600 points to buy a Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-T90 camera, which cost about £250 in 2009 – it was either one of them, or an Xbox 360 console. I still own and use this camera.
When Coca-Cola started to wind down Coke Zone in 2013, the offers had become less enticing – increased participation from people in the points scheme had caused inflation, with vouchers costing 100 points having increased to 150, then 200 points, while larger items, previously costing over a thousand points, were replaced with prize draws, spending fewer points to enter. Coca-Cola provided a final round of larger products to burn up the piles of points that some, like me, had amassed – I bought a nineteen-inch Sony Bravia television which, like the camera four years earlier, would have costed around £250, but costed 1,500 points. Once Coke Zone finally closed, I had received prizes and vouchers worth a total of over £650.
I have never been that lucky since, although I rarely enter any competitions. However, I have benefitted from other points reward schemes: HMV started their own, Pure HMV, whose money-off vouchers came in good use when I realised I needed David Bowie’s complete discography after he died. Like Tesco Clubcard and the Boots Advantage card, my loyalty to buying products from them that I could have bought elsewhere is being rewarded, rather than buying one brand instead of another – I guess the 1980s “cola wars” between Coke and Pepsi never really ended. Meanwhile, my bank introduced a current account in 2014 that offered its own yearly choice of rewards, one of which was six free cinema tickets per year. I have paid to watch a film in a cinema only a few times in the last ten years, and one of those times was for “Cats.”
My Coke Zone online login apparently still works, but Coca-Cola’s website now only offers product news and the occasional competition, which is perhaps all it should ever have done. Coca-Cola is a brand that does not need to advertise as much as other products, such is its place in popular culture – I wish I could find a copy of the poster I once saw that shows a Coke bottle with the slogan, “And what would you like to eat?” They only need to advertise to remind people they are there, which is why you see Coca-Cola ads most often at Christmas, Easter and during the summer.
Fortunately for Coca-Cola, I would have continued drinking Diet Coke regardless of whether Coke Zone existed, but I took advantage of it while it was there. My continual loyalty to them has since been measured in pounds Sterling, rather than points.