Coke adapts approach to NPD

20 September 2012

NEW YORK: Coca-Cola, the soft drinks giant, is pursuing a more open approach to new product development, thus effectively modernising its traditionally "secretive culture".

Speaking at an industry conference, Anthony Newstead, the company's global director of innovation, IT and interactive, argued it would foster a "sharing formula" to match Coke's famous "secret formula".

More specifically, he suggested that the organisation was going "through a phase of risk awareness rather than risk aversion", a shift that has encouraged the adoption of several new tools and processes.

One example of this trend in action is the firm's use of Chatter, an in-house social networking tool for enterprises developed by Salesforce, the software and cloud computing group.

This platform enables staff to share ideas locally and globally. Newstead's team worked closely with senior executives across Coca-Cola's operations to secure their buy-in, and thus that of their business units. 

"You need to have a good way to communicate for that to work and email is not it: social collaboration is the way to go," Newstead said, as reported by Marketing Week.

While there have been some difficulties in "flattening the hierarchy" and successfully ensuring the smooth flow of information, this will be crucial to facilitating greater in-house creativity, Newstead said.

"You have to move away from a command control top down secretive model to a more collaborative one," he added.

One primary motivation behind this objective is Coca-Cola's 2020 Vision, which seeks to double its system revenues by the end of the decade.

Among the potential schemes that could be developed are working with customers to identify ways that Coke and its bottlers can enhance their communications, and allowing members of the public to propose ideas for new digital tools.

"We have quite a secretive culture - we have a secret formula - but we are looking at ways to connect more people with the company … to make our walls a little bit more translucent," said Newstead.

The firm has already taken one step in this direction, having recently launched a campaign asking its 50m fans on Facebook to suggest an invention, cause or social app that can spread "happiness". It will help develop the winning entry next year.

Data sourced from Marketing Week; additional content by Warc staff