Coke adopts new approach

13 October 2009

ATLANTA: Coca-Cola, the US soft drinks giant, is seeking to adopt a more nuanced approach as it tries to engage with consumers and derive the maximum payback from its communications, Joseph V. Tripodi, the company's chief marketing and commercial officer, has said.

Speaking in a recent interview, Tripodi argued "if we want people to drink our brand on a daily basis, we need to connect with them on a daily basis."

One core element of this process, he suggested, is moving away from a "spray and pray" model, and towards one based on "precision marketing".

"Precision marketing is aligning the message with the media. It's about engaging the consumer at the right geographies at the right time. If you can do that, you can get a much higher return on marketing investment," said Tripodi.

With regards to media, this involves adopting creative strategies based on "big ideas" which are effective across a variety of different platforms.

"Coke tends to be a 30-second-centric television commercial culture. But the big idea should sit at the centre of the table, not in the television spot," its chief marketer stated.

"We are trying to say 'Let's look at the big idea for the brand, and connecting with consumers.' We are moving a lot more to consumer engagement as opposed to simply television advertising. The pace of that change will be different for different markets."

As previously reported, digital is playing an increasingly important role in the beverage manufacturer's marketing mix, and, in Tripodi's view, this requires at least the partial surrender of control to web users.

"We are talking about how we can evolve as a global marketing entity with more content management, some of which will be consumer-generated, some we'll buy and some we'll create ourselves," he said.

"Whether you like it or not, consumers are in a way playing a big role in content management. At the end of the day, the consumer owns the brand more than we do."

Alongside enjoying considerable success on Facebook, the social networking website, Coca-Cola has sought to embrace other new media tools, including mobile, where it has developed a number of popular iPhone applications.

"We need to understand that digital marketing does not necessarily mean the internet, but mobile too," according to Tripodi.

In terms of the company's overall expenditure in the digital space, Tripodi added that the American corporation would "like to be little ahead of the curve, but not so ahead."

When it comes to generating customer insight, the owner of Sprite and Fanta has also begun to utilise a wide range of online and offline tools.

"We are trying to understand the difference between consumers and shoppers, and how to engage shoppers in stores – that's a very big focus for us," said Tripodi. 

"We've got probably 95 million consumers in our database worldwide. We have a very heavy focus on one-to-one marketing."

One outcome of this research had been to reveal that "there are groups of people in the world you can communicate with in a similar way."

"We see a global youth culture developing," Tripodi continued. "People who live in urban environments show a lot of commonality in their lifestyles. Happiness, optimism is something that's shared by people all around the world."

However, he also posited that brand owners have to embrace aspects of the local markets in which they work, alongside more overarching principles. 

"You can't paint all markets with the same brush. We have been spending a lot of time understanding what people want," he said.

Brazil, India and China are among the specific countries where the soft drinks giant is looking to keep up with changing trends.

"We would

Data sourced from Economic Times; additional content by Warc staff