Coke emphasises authenticity

08 August 2012

NEW YORK: Coca-Cola, the soft drinks group, is seeking to increase consumer awareness of its corporate "character", reflecting changing shopper habits in the social media age.

Speaking in an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Muhtar Kent, the company's chief executive, argued that authenticity has now become a crucial watchword for all major firms.

"Because of social media, and the strength of social media, it is no longer important to just create positive news and tell people that," he said. "People like to talk about something once they believe in it."

Sustainability is one key example of such an issue, and greater concern with this and other areas of corporate social responsibility have led buyers to scrutinise manufacturers, not just their products.

"Consumers no longer vote for a product or buy a product because it tastes good. That is not enough any more. They want to essentially believe in the character of the company. They want to associate themselves with the character of the company," Kent said.

In a demonstration of the organisation's increasingly open approach, it does not directly control the brand page for Coca-Cola on Facebook, which has 46.5m "likes".

"Our Facebook page, which is the largest Facebook page in the world for any brand, is not managed by us; it is managed by two people who created it," said Kent.

"You have to have a lot of courage to let that happen as not everything that is said on that page is positive. But it would never have been the biggest Facebook page in the world if we managed it. We know that."

This kind of thinking, Kent suggested, is vital at a time when public confidence in the corporate world, and beyond, has reached a nadir as a result of the financial crisis.

"I think there has never been a time in the world where people on the street - it doesn't matter whether you are in San Francisco or New York or London or Lyon - have had this low level of trust in institutions, including business, government, civil society organisations, NGOs, education, health," he said.

"The future world of successful governments, successful businesses and successful NGOs and civil society organisations lies in their ability to be able to increase effective collaboration between government, business and civil society."

Data sourced from Daily Telegraph; additional content by Warc staff