Content key for Coke

04 July 2011

ATLANTA: Coca-Cola, the soft drinks giant, believes content is replacing advertising as a key way to reach consumers.

Speaking to The Hub Magazine, Joe Tripodi, Coca-Cola's chief marketing and commercial officer, argued the firm's 125 year history has effectively mixed continuity and innovation.

"Coke has been about evolution and being a brand that is solidly embedded in certain values while also reflecting the mores of the times," he said.

Tripodi identified two specific elements playing a central role in maintaining and enhancing its bond with consumers, one of which involves the physical product.

"We've had Coke in its traditional contour glass bottle since 1916. We've also had the logo, the Spenserian script, since the late 1800s," he said. "So, you basically are looking at the value of consistency over a long period of time."

The second is based on intangible factors, like the attitude Coca-Cola embodies.

"The emotional side is even more important. The brand and the company have stood for positivity, optimism and happiness for 125 years," Tripodi said.

When discussing marketing, Tripodi asserted one of the brand's strengths has been tapping "cultural touchpoints and passion points", such as the Olympic Games and FIFA World Cup.

"Those passion points are the way that you stay relevant to a new generation," he said.

While the rise of digital media has transformed the old models used to reach shoppers, Tripodi suggested these trends are actually beneficial.

"My sense is that there is more opportunity for innovation in consumer engagement," he said.

In driving this process, definitions of the term advertising must be adapted. "I would re-frame that and call it content - not just advertising," Tripodi added.

"It's also not just about television. It's about compelling content - whether it runs as a 30- or 60-second television commercial, a webisode, or five seconds on a mobile device."

One major issue facing Coca-Cola is correctly distributing budgets in a rapidly-changing market.

"The big challenge is how to allocate dollars against all these different endpoints - from traditional television, print, radio to digital, social, experiential to cinema and on and on and on," Tripodi said.

Alongside paid-for media, the company is leveraging earned media, for example Facebook, shared media, by working with retailers on various schemes, and alternative media, such as packaging and trucks.

"We are developing more and more ways to use our own media more effectively to get our message out," Tripodi said.

For social media, Tripodi believes a broad conception is required, rather than focusing on the number of fans following a brand.

"I think about it more as a social enterprise than just media. Our approach is very much what we call 'fans first,'" he said. "We let social media build organically as opposed to leading it aggressively.

"It would be very easy to say that social is the next shiny object, but I fundamentally believe that it's a seminal, systemic change that gives more and more power and authority over to the consumer."

Such a holistic view partly stems from Tripodi's dual role covering commercial and marketing disciplines, and thus incorporating everything from "idea to shelf".

"If someone comes into my office and says, 'Joe, here's a 30-second television commercial that's going to solve all of our business problems,' I show them the door pretty quickly because I know that it's a lot of rubbish," he said.

"I have to balance both sides of the equation - the brand-love side through inspirational marketing, and the brand-value side through all the aspects of the commercial side of the business."

Data sourced from The Hub Magazine; additional content by Warc staff