Real time marketing adds up for Coca-Cola

By Rosie Baker | 19 June 2014

There are 33 tweets about Coca-Cola in English every minute and more than 80% of the content and conversations about Coca-Cola online are not created or controlled by the brand. Instead of trying to regain control, it has accepted that it no longer has full ownership of its brand and is adopting a strategy of working collaboratively with its fans and followers to create better marketing than it could do on its own.

Speaking on the main stage at the Cannes Lions conference, Coca-Cola president of sparkling and strategic marketing for North America, Wendy Clark, said: “As brands and companies, we've been on a continuum for the last few years since social came around. We had to think about how to integrate social into our marketing, then there was social marketing and that has given way to social business and we have to weigh up how that impacts our whole enterprise and what it means for how we operate in real time. Our goal as code is to operate in real time on any given day.” 

It’s not there yet but it is making progress with a “planned real time engagement approach,” she said. 

“You wouldn't be wrong in saying that the consumer - the millenniums and teens and socially networked audiences - were perhaps controlling our variables and outcomes, but at Coke we chose to look at it a little differently. We believe that were not willing to delegate our proxy in that conversation. We have a role and we have to contribute to that. So when we come together with our consumer then we can create a 1+1=3 outcome and its better than either of us could have created on our own,” Clark said.

She conceded that some people are of the view that real-time marketing is destroying content and prompting a rush of poorly thought out, poor quality content that cutters the landscape and believes that brands have to hold themselves to a higher standard to make sure that the content they churn out is high quality not high volume.

To handle it, Coke has created two in-house teams designed to bring its real time ambition to life. Hustle, a newsroom-style content team and The Hub - a network of 23 consumer interaction centres that listen to and analyse the online conversation around the globe that all feedback into a central hub in its Atlanta HQ. Together they are the “art, copy, code and data” capabilities the brand needs, said Clark.

Coca-Cola's The World’s Cup campaign around the World Cup is the biggest example of Coke’s collaborative real-time approach.

It launched its first global digital first activation in April with 77 countries activating on the same day and over the 40-hour global roll out, Coke achieved more online impressions than it had in the 90 days preceding it.

Part of the collaborative activity included its Happiness Flag, where it asked fans to send a selfie to them which it used to create a digital mosaic of the photos that was unveiled as a flag during the first game of the tournament. At the same time it was unveiled Coke emailed the 220,000 people who submitted a photo telling them exactly where in the mosaic their picture was.

It also tasked a Canadian teacher who ran a Flikr page of his own Coke-themed photos with being a photo diarist travelling the world and taking photos for Coke as part of a trophy tour in the run up to the World Cup. It also created 16 films featuring fans sharing their excitement for the World Cup and has created a “content squad” of young football fans to document moments of engagement in the run up and during the games. 

Most of its approach was experimental, and the teams didn’t know what would work and what wouldn’t, said Clark, adding that brands like Coca-Cola need to take that leap and try something innovative to evolve.

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