Coca-Cola takes new approach to engagement

17 May 2010

ATLANTA: Coca-Cola, the soft drinks giant, is employing a unique "philosophy of consumer engagement" to inform all aspects of its marketing strategy.

Speaking at the Goldman Sachs Consumer Products Symposium, Joseph Tripodi, Coke's chief marketing and commercial officer, said it was responsible for 1.6 billion servings a day and had 20 million customers a week.

"What we think about is Coca-Cola as the most developed business system for connecting with people and with brands," he argued.

In order to drive growth across its portfolio – from established offerings like Coke and Sprite to up-and-coming lines like Burn and Ciel – the company has established a "philosophy of consumer engagement".

"We believe that enhanced integration is really the turbo-charger of our business. Fundamentally, what we can't have ... is 206 markets operating in their own silo-ed world," Tripodi suggested.

More specifically, Coca-Cola is attempting to combine "scale" and "story-telling" across the globe to partner strong creative with the more functional aspects of marketing.

"What's important for us going forward is balancing the understanding between operational marketing and inspirational marketing," said Tripodi.

"It doesn't do any good if someone saw a great ad in primetime last night but goes into the store and it's out of stock, or your price pack architecture is wrong."

Achieving this goal requires moving beyond a "spray and pray" model of communications to "precision marketing" based on allying effectiveness with content that will have an impact among shoppers.

"It all revolves around finding emotionally-driven consumer engagement points. That can be the Olympics. That can be the World Cup. That can be a movie," Tripodi continued.

Digital has a major role in this process, with the company's US loyalty scheme, MyCokeRewards, now boasting over 14 million members, who enter an average of one million product codes each day.

In response to the "critical change" taking place across the communications industry, Tripodi added that Coke was adapting its approach to both traditional and new media.

"We're still a big player in paid media. But the way that we think about it more and more are these two other circles: owned media and paid media," he said.

"It may well be that we don't need to increase our paid media dramatically. It may well be we need to dial up our owned media, or our earned media, quite substantially."

Elsewhere, Coca-Cola is also planning to "use mobile more to engage consumers" in a direct manner, an avenue it is further exploring through a range of experiential initiatives.

For example, the World of Coca-Cola museum in Atlanta has received over three million visitors in just three years, and thus helps encourage positive word of mouth about the company and its brands.

"Where marketing is going is particularly in this area of experiential marketing and consumer engagement at different levels," said Tripodi.

In a similar fashion, the five million people who have signed up as fans of Coke on Facebook act as ambassadors for the brand online.

"Those people have an average of 130 friends," Tripodi added.

"You can start to see the multiplier effect when you can engage with people and they feel good about your brand and they're an advocate for your brand and what you stand for."

Coca-Cola is also one of the official sponsors of the FIFA World Cup in South Africa, and will draw all of these themes together to engage with teens, retain customers in their twenties and build "brand love".

Data sourced from Coca-Cola; additional content by Warc staff