Coke mixes global and local

21 November 2011

ISTANBUL: Coca-Cola, the soft drinks giant, is attempting to balance its global reach with responding to local needs in individual markets, an area where marketing plays a key role.

Speaking to Booz & Co, Ahmet C Bozer, president of Coca-Cola's Eurasia and Africa Group, and in charge of 90 emerging economies from India to Turkey, said that juggling such demands is not easy. (Warc subscribers can read more on this idea here.)

"The Coca-Cola brand is global, but it must be locally relevant," he said. "We are still evolving in finding the best local and global combination that works for us."

Currently, Coke's head office leads up its marketing, sales and finance activities, whereas bottling is conducted on a franchise basis, and areas like quality control are required to mix the two models.

It also has six operating units across Eurasia and Africa – in South Africa, Kenya, Turkey, Russia, India and Dubai – and a central team in Istanbul covering strategy, regional marketing and finance, and providing a link to its Atlanta headquarters.

At present, annual per capita consumption of Coca-Cola's products stands at 250 units in South Africa and over 150 in Turkey, but in India, only 4–5% of all beverages consumed are packaged.

"It's about locally relevant brand building with consumers – the right pricing and packaging, with small packs, large packs, or take-home packs," said Bozer. "We place new coolers in the market and invest in people, putting 'feet on the street' and activate outlets one by one."

The recent social uprising in Egypt, and on-going instability in nations such as Pakistan, also pose challenges, although these issues are not insurmountable.

"In our external environment, we may have many headwinds, but we sell simple moments of pleasure that get consumed a million times a day, and that business continues to be vibrant," said Bozer.

"We have good marketers in each country who have access into consumer insight data, and who work with very good agencies, while at the same time working with robust global processes."

In showing how to mix local and international goals in practice, Bozer pointed to solar-powered coolers developed in India and since rolled out elsewhere, as well as the adaptation of a Ramadan marketing campaign from Turkey in numerous Muslim nations.

"We don't work in a way whereby every time a business unit wants to launch a product, they have to get my approval ... Once the strategy and business plan are approved, local teams can execute."

Data sourced from Booz & Co; additional content by Warc staff