Coca-Cola, the marketing genius

Didn’t Coca-Cola just nail marketing and reverse psychology in the above picture? For almost a century, the company has been synonymous with one of the best ways to escape the excruciating heat by chugging the soft drink, and the addictive deliciousness can make you long for more than a bottle or a can at any particular time. On one hand, Coca-Cola is considered to be the most popular and biggest-selling soft drink in history, and perhaps, one of the best-known products in this world; while on the other, Coca-Cola as a brand has its negative effects as well – the sludge from Coca-Cola’s factories are generally contaminated with high levels of cadmium, lead, and chromium which pollute ground water. These chemicals could potentially create health issues in the long run for those who treat coke as drinking water, and consume it by the litre.

In my opinion, Coca-Cola remains emblematic of the best and worst of civilization. On the brighter side of the coin, we have so much to learn from Coca-Cola in terms of marketing and creating a positive vibe. One can only marvel at the viral campaigns and the total reach out Coca-Cola has had. As a community, there is so much that Coke can teach us, it’s staggering. They sell 1.5 billion servings every single day, which is similar to every man, woman, and child on the planet having a serving of Coke every week. They take real-time data and immediately feed it back to the product, ideally tapping into local entrepreneurial talent, and doing incredible marketing.

Variety and Impact

If Coke doesn’t suit one’s taste, the public probably savors either Fanta, Limca, Thumbs Up, Sprite, Mazza or any of the Minute Maid flavors- all of which are Coca-Cola products. The omnipresence of the drink and its popular advertisements can be seen from the mere fact that the Christmas icon, Santa Claus, has his current red and white avatar due to a Coca-Cola advertisement dating back from the 1930’s! The product is recognized by 94% of the people across the globe and they have more than 500 brands under the same company. With its revenue around 80 Billion $, Coke can be drawn parallel to the 75th largest economy in the world. According to Facebook, Coca-Cola is the number one consuming product.

Connect with Customers

The slogan of coke,’Open Happiness’ is so attractive that it will definitely bring people together. After all, spreading happiness is the best feeling in life.

Drew Burdon, executive strategy director at agency R/GA, which has been working alongside Coca-Cola on some of the digital aspects of the campaign says, “There was a Facebook app last year which created a virtual customized can and was really successful. This year Coke has doubled its investment, and what it’s trying to do is connect with consumers.”

Here are some of the brilliant campaigns executed by Coke:

The Happiness Machines are classic Coke vending machines that dish out treats including drinks, pizza, flowers and sandwiches. One in Singapore required a hug before it would dispense a free drink, while another in Belgium was dance-activated.

A coke machine placed in a park tried to unlock the 007 in each person, giving them a task and upon completion, they would be rewarded with a coke.

In South East Asia, a machine allowed the daily-wage labourer to call home by dropping coke caps in place of coins.

Two machines were placed with cameras, one in India and another in Pakistan, requesting people to make friends across the boundary, connect, and then share a coke.

Hope for a better world

Watching Coke’s video campaign on ‘Reasons to believe in a better world’ gives you goosebumps. The video talks about how positivity can overhaul negativity: “For every military tank being built in the world, 1,31,000 stuffed dolls are being made. For each stock market that crashes, there are 10 covers of “What a wonderful world”. For every corrupt person, there are 8,000 giving blood. For every fence someone puts up, 200,000 “Welcome” mats are placed. While a scientist designs a new weapon, 1,000,000 moms are baking chocolate cakes. More monopoly money is being printed than real dollars. There are more funny videos on the web than the bad news around the world. Love has more hits than fear. For every person saying things will get worse, there are 100 couples trying for a baby. While 1 weapon is sold in the world, 20,000 people share a coke. There are reasons to believe in a better world.”

The campaigns on plant a tree and recycling by Coca-Cola have also created positive impact across the globe.

Revisiting ideas

Share a Coke has been one of the oldest yet powerful campaign that Coke has used. Sharing a coke with friends to sharing a coke with strangers and clicking pictures, this campaign has been one constant success every year. Indeed, sales aside, what Coke has done is still clever, even groundbreaking. Will McInnes, chief marketing officer of social media listening and analytics company Brandwatch, says: “We are in an era of personalisation and vanity. This kind of ‘Oh my God, it’s me!’ hook just works fantastically well whether you like it or not.”

“Revisiting a campaign can be seen as redundant, stale and unimaginative. It’s tricky to pull it off, but given the continued global obsession with photo sharing and social media self-promotion, Share a Coke is a naturally viral concept,” he adds.

Globalization and Localization

Coke has always tried to associate itself as a product with a kind of life that people want to live. Even though it’s a global company, they always have a very local approach. Coke’s global campaign slogan is “Open Happiness”, but they localize it; and they don’t just guess or assume what makes people happy, they in fact go to places across the globe and realize how happiness is associated with family life. If you can recall the football world cup campaign song made by Coke, “Wavin’ Flag” by a Somalian hip hop artist, it reflects South Africa, where they associated happiness with seriti or community respect, and that played itself well in the World Cup campaign. But it didn’t stop there – they localized it into 18 different languages, and it went number one on the pop chart in 17 countries.

In Egypt, Coca-Cola has built 650 clean water installations in the rural village of Beni Suef and sponsors Ramadan meals for children across the Middle East.

In India, the brand sponsors the Support My School initiative to improve facilities at local schools. Not to mention, it even sticks with selling an emotion that can’t get lost in translation: Happiness.

What can governments and NGOs learn from Coke?

We’re trying to deliver condoms to people or vaccinations across the globe; Coke’s success kind of stops and makes you wonder: how is it that they can get Coke to these far-flung places? If they can do that, why can’t governments and NGOs do the same thing?

Melinda Gates on her talk about Coca-Cola says,”They’re good at tapping into that local entrepreneurial talent. Coke’s been in Africa since 1928, but most of the time they couldn’t reach the distant markets, because they had a system that was a lot like the developed world, which was a large truck rolling down the street. And in Africa, in its remote places, it’s hard to find a good road. But Coke noticed something – that local people were taking the product, buying it in bulk and then reselling it in these hard-to-reach places. And so they took a bit of time to learn that. Hence, they decided in 1990, that they wanted to start training the local entrepreneurs, by giving them small loans. They set them up as what they called micro-distribution centers, and those local entrepreneurs then hired sales people, who go out with bicycles and push carts and wheelbarrows, to sell the product. There are now some 3,000 of these centers employing about 15,000 people in Africa. In Tanzania and Uganda, they represent 90 percent of Coke’s sales. Let’s even look at the development side – Governments and NGOs need to tap into that local entrepreneurial talent as well, because the locals know how to reach the very hard-to-serve places, their neighbors, and they know what motivates them to make change.”

All in all, given a chance, I’d be happy to join the marketing team of Coca-Cola to spread happiness and reach out to every corner of the world.

ImageCredits: Ceshiguang, Maxresdefault, Hdwallpapers, Nogarlicnoonions, Whats, Humanosphere

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