As a consumer one of my favorite Coca Cola commercials of all times is the guy in the bus singing “Always Coca Cola“. Cheezy? Yeah, whatever, it just made me feel good and connected that good feeling to the brand Coca Cola, which probably was its purpose.
Coke still number 1
Coca cola still is the number 1 brand in the world according to Interbrand, but faces a lot of challenges in the new day and age. The overall goal of the brand is to keep the Coke message of optimism consistent and relevant for every generation, said Coke’s Cristina Bondolowski | Vice President Global Brands at E-Day 2012. So what the brand does is adapt the optimism message to each era, leaving the core of the message always the same. though. And adaption is very important Mrs Bondolowski illustrated: in the 60s women starred in Coca Cola commercial as moms and housekeepers, nowadays you see kids literally pushing moms back to work in ads.
So, how do you keep your brand relevant? Four tips from Coca Cola:
1 – Understand your consumer through research. And yes the classical research ways are still great for that. However, you also need to spend lots of time listening & talking to consumers online, creating a dialogue.
2 – Always In – Always On. In this day and age you need to be in sync with your consumers constantly and consistently: from 360 (degrees in a couple of bursts) activation to a 365 (days a year) dialogue. You need to post and react and listen to your consumers every day, every week and every month, because consumers expect you to do this. And they will switch to brands that take them more seriously and really listen if you don’t. So always in tune with your consumers, inside their community and always on, i.e. never off. For Coca Cola this actually had an impact on for example their marketing calendars, who used to be separated in various media (online, pr, TV, etc.) and divided in bursts (January Flight 1, March Flight 2, you know the drill). It changed from bursts to year round and all media is now intertwined and each in its own way adds value to one single message.
From my personal experience as a marketer I’d like to add to that: make sure you(r organization) is flexible enough. First of all to do something spontaneous that just feels right for your brand at that moment and secondly you gotta realize the year at the end is not going to be what it looked like at the beginning, which was always true, only now more than ever. Todays digital world is all about letting go and dealing with less control of your consumers – and more control of your brand by your consumers.
3 – When you have chosen what your brand promise is: do it & be it (Coke has chosen one word: “Happiness”). Make sure everything you do confirms your brand image and make sure your it’s true and relevant to consumers. You can’t spend millions of bucks to state you are the best in customer friendliness and have paid telephone support teams costing consumers real money when they call and have to wait 10 minutes to get a grumpy, unknowledgeable customer service employee on the phone.
4 – Paid Owned Earned is great, but add one: Shared. Coca Cola’s example was: Consumers opened lots of their Facebook fanpages. The VP said “its their brand and we know it! Where would Coke be without its fans and consumers? We’ve decided to work together with our consumers to build our brand. Inspire your consumers to make them your brand ambassadors (…)”, because it’s so much better to get a great review from a consumer than from a brand. Of course I can only agree.
If all Coca Cola employees think and act in line with what this smart & charming Coke big shot said, I’d be quite confident in saying it’s true what the guy on the bus once sang “Always Coca Cola“.