Coke Interview: Unleashing the Power of Consumer Consumption

By Catherine Fee, ADMA

Interview with Leo RobertsAs part of the ADMA Expert Group Interview Series, we recently sat down with the Head of Communications for Coca Cola, Leo Roberts on the success of what is arguably their most successful campaign to date.

Each year Coke creates a large summer campaign to attract customers, and this year was no different.  The brief for the Share a Coke Campaign in terms of the objectives was very similar to previous years. It was all about recruiting consumers into the brand and the continuing challenge of taking the existing love for the brand and converting it into purchase intent and ultimately consumption. According to Roberts, the marketing objectives for the campaign were very similar to every other. The slight change was that they simplified the brief to get down to the real essence of what they wanted to achieve. “We got the brief down to no more than 150 words,” said Roberts, which allowed the creative agency more scope. In the brief one of the things that differentiated it this year was the desire to “create an idea that got people talking about coke”. One of the connection planning principles of the company is that social is at the heart,” said Roberts.

Social was at the heart of the campaign right from the start. The idea grew into an invitation to share a coke, and ultimately sharing is a very social behaviour.

“We created a campaign that we thought would generate a lot of buzz. What we didn’t expect was the scale of that buzz and how quickly it grew.” From the moment the packs started to appear on shelves, that was when the buzz started to appear.

The major elements that differentiate this campaign from others are twofold. Firstly the role of the pack is an incredibly important piece of owned media and it played a pivotal role in this campaign. The second element was social. The hub of the campaign was the Facebook community. They had a URL, which drove everybody to and to the Facebook community. “We created a whole heap of content and ways for people to get involved in the campaign and use the functionality of Social Media to amplify the idea to share a coke.”

Like any other advertiser, Coke saw the benefit in measuring the impact of their investment. What differentiated this campaign was the role of digital and social; the amount of investment they put in those channels. “What we did was created new protocols to effectively measure the impact of that investment. It was a fusion of what we traditionally did, and still do, and created new methods to make sure we properly measured the impact of the investment.”

Do they intend to develop the relationship customers on a longer term? According to Roberts: “Growth in traffic was up to 870%. Our Facebook community grew 39% over the campaign period.” The thing with social is that it isn’t always on connection point, and while you can run campaigns and have social at the heart of those campaigns, when you’re not active on a particular campaign, that community is still active, you need to stimulate it, encourage it, feed it.  “That’s our intention. So we have a content plan for our online community that sits outside the campaign. It is about continuing the momentum.”

A lot of companies are coming to grips with social media and the legalities around it. ‘There’s lots of different models you can adopt in this area”, says Roberts. “I think no one model suits any organisation or any brand”. If you think about the way in which their Facebook community is run globally. “The Coke global Facebook group was started by consumers. And rather than shut that down we actually reached out to those consumers and worked with them to build the community. And it’s really our point of view is about fans first, and about making the interaction with them authentic.” Obviously there are some rules around that. A lot of advertisers talk about connection points and a framework of paid, owned, earned and shared. Facebook is an interested one because is it owned media or is it earned media. “We don’t particularly view it as owned media. We don’t own the data, Facebook does. The way we think about it is that it is a piece of owned media, but the fans own it.” … “It’s really about allowing consumers direct access to the brand in an authentic way.”

It’s incredibly important to add value. “As part of the Share a Coke campaign we had 150 names on packs which covered about 40% of our core group of consumers but which meant that 60% of people didn’t have their names on the packs. So we created content that was socially enabled people that allowed people to get their names on cans so that they could then share them via their own social network, hopefully that was a value add and we saw all of those virtual cans created and shared.”

Coke Unleashed
Unleashed is about 18 months since it’s launch and is incredibly complex initiative. Globally Coca Cola have about 15 or more similar programs. “Coke unleashed is a consumer manifestation of our relationship strategy.” It’s a strategy that recognised the power of data. Ultimately it has two objectives. One is about frequency, and one is about retention. “We’re about rewarding incremental purchases but also about retaining loyal consumers and rewarding existing behaviour”. It’s incredibly important. It provides both the short-term digital infrastructure for Coke, Diet Coke and Coke Zero to run promotions through it. “But long term it’s a way for us to create a one to one relationship with consumers that we value.”

At the heart of the Coke Unleashed platform is a database, which they would use to better report marketing decisions. Longer-term is to get a better understanding of our consumers so that we can take that understanding and create more meaningful communications” Social Media fans are profitable to Coca Cola in terms that they’re generating a lot of insights that helps them improve their product offering and brand positioning online.

The key for Coca Cola is integrating behaviours that consumers have online and pull that behaviour into a platform that they can control. Only time will tell how successful the campaign has been for them but it’s certainly been worth watching.

This blog was taken from the full interview with Leo Roberts, Head of Communications for Coca Cola as part of the Expert Group Interview Series. Lucie Austin, Marketing Director for Coca Cola South Pacific will be providing more insights into the Coca Cola campaign at this years ADMA Forum in August.


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