Coke, Dell use big ideas

19 October 2010

NEW YORK: Major brand owners like Coca-Cola and Dell are increasingly basing their marketing on a unifying idea, in a bid to engage consumers with consistent messages.

"There's a lot of cynicism and distrust in the world of big institutions, and companies really need to share with people what they value, what they care about," Marc Pritchard, Procter & Gamble's global brand-building officer, argued at a recent ANA conference.

One way P&G has implemented this strategy is its "Thanks Mom" initiative during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

The FMCG group paid for the mothers of 250 athletes to attend the event, and the resulting ad campaign generating $30m in incremental sales.

"We decided to say we're in the business of helping moms, and it hit an emotional chord with people and also had a great halo effect on the rest of our brands," said Pritchard.

Further P&G schemes incorporate Tide Loads of Help, where it deploys a mobile laundromat to areas suffering disaster situations, washing, drying and folding over 300 laundry loads each day.

Dell, the IT specialist, also unveiled a new guiding principle earlier this year, premised on the notion of empowering customers to "grow and thrive".

Such a platform now informs all aspects of its operations, from advertising to corporate social responsibility.

"We've spent the last several quarters focused on two core priorities: driving Dell brand health and building the capabilities of our 4,000 marketers globally," said Erin Nelson, the firm's outgoing chief marketing officer.

"Purpose isn't just good for the soul, it's actually really good for the bottom line.

"The purpose can become the filter that says 'do I or do I not invest the resources in getting this done, is it going to help me achieve the purpose for which my company exists every single day.'"

Meanwhile, Coca-Cola, the soft drinks manufacturer, has extended its "Open Happiness" mantra, encompassing everything from viral videos to championing eco-friendly products like I LOHAS.

This kind of output, according to chief marketing and commercial officer Joseph Tripodi, follows a "liquid and linked" model covering all communications efforts, and measured by assessing engagement levels.

"I'm concerned about expressions, how many times people are expressing their point of view on our brand and helping us tell our story or amplifying what we're saying," said Tripodi.

Experiential marketing is also assuming a central role, with the World of Coca-Cola museum having attracted 3.5m visitors in three years and millions of shoppers dropping in to Coke's Shanghai Expo pavilion.

Equally, the organisation's "Happiness House" at the Winter Olympics received 270,000 in 16 days, delivering tangible benefits.

"When those people walk out, they have a huge smile on their face and they are brand advocates," said Tripodi.

"The nature of the experience is very different than if they're sitting at home watching a traditional television spot."

"I think more and more where marketing is going, where we're going, is ... some very interesting experiential branding opportunities for us."

Elsewhere, Marilyn Mersereau, technology giant Cisco's svp, corporate marketing, is addressing the key question: "What is the emotional connection that my brand has to its customers?

"We think at Cisco that video is the next big play," she added. "The human network becomes even more human and powerful with video."

Data sourced from AdAge/Forbes; additional content by Warc staff