Coke takes balanced approach

19 March 2012

NEW YORK: Coca-Cola, the soft drinks giant, is trying to strike the right balance between new and existing products, and global and local values, as it seeks to develop marketing and innovation best practice.

Speaking to Forbes, Joe Tripodi, Coca-Cola's chief marketing and commercial officer, argued that innovation, whether in the form of delivering superior beverages or uncovering better ways to engage consumers, was vital.

"The key is not to be afraid to fail or take a risk, as long as you are willing to learn," he said. "You also have to find the emotional connection, and now a cultural connection, to have a point of view and a voice on the cultural leadership aspects of your product."

When allocating funding to its R&D programmes, the company directs the bulk of spending to refreshing current lines, and divides the remainder between brand extensions and more experimental activity.

"We invest 70% of our resources in existing products, 20% in innovations related to existing products, and 10% in pure innovations," said Tripodi.

As an international corporation present in 206 nations around the world, Coca-Cola also endeavours to achieve the optimal mix concerning leveraging the advantages such scale affords and serving individual markets.

"It's an 80/20 model," said Tripodi. "About 80% of the tool kit is created at the center, and the rest gets adapted or adjusted locally."

As evidence of this, the Atlanta-based firm has established what it calls the Global Charter Process, where a "big idea" is conceived in one location, then altered to suit specific requirements.

"We really didn't need 30 Christmas commercials, as an example," Tripodi said. "Instead we'll say, 'Germany, you come up with the Christmas commercial', and other countries can then use it or adapt it slightly.

"I don't believe that an idea has to come from the US or London. We encourage our agencies to let the best idea win, no matter the geography."

In keeping with such a principle, the manufacturer of Sprite, Dasani and Fanta has pursued a dynamic approach to fostering enhanced communication and coherence among its marketing staff worldwide.

"We have a sharing portal so people can access knowledge. The key to being competitive is to shorten the learning curve. We also try to move people from culture to culture because that also helps them become more collaborative," Tripodi said.

Data sourced from Forbes; additional content by Warc staff