LONDON: Coca-Cola, the soft drinks giant, is focusing on building customer loyalty rather than improving short-term sales, and is measuring "brand love" to strengthen its long-term position.

At Warc's Measuring Advertising Performance conference yesterday (March 10th), Silke Muenster, Coca-Cola's director of knowledge and insights, said this metric is now "as important as market share" to the firm.

"We know that we would only have sustainable growth if we are able to build relationships with our consumers," Muenster argued. "These relationships convert into sales."

Coca-Cola uses a proprietary tracking tool to analyse brand love, interviewing a total of 115,000 customers each year in 70 markets worldwide.

This data is then converted in to a comparable metric, which can be measured across countries and brands, as well as over time.

According to these scores, Italians find it easy to express their love for Coca-Cola, but this does not always translate into sales.

Customers in Germany exhibit the opposite traits, with brand love being a difficult sentiment to stimulate, but also closely correlating with purchase levels.

Brand love has also informed key activities like the Atlanta-based firm's decision to sponsor the Olympic Games, despite the fact ads are not allowed to appear at venues where events are being held.

"The more people love you, the more they drink ... It's a very important measure," Muenster added.

She also highlighted the importance of calls to action in driving sales, with coolers bearing the "Drink Coca-Cola" slogan selling around 20% more bottles, a differential that caries through globally.

At the same event, Duncan Southgate, global innovation director at Millward Brown, revealed the results of new international research conducted by the company in to the effectiveness of viral video.

To generate the information supporting this study, the company assessed 100 ads from both the US and UK in terms of how many YouTube views they had received.

Generally, they found that viral hits are rare – with just one in six spots gaining a considerable number of views – but remain a goal worth pursuing, as success can deliver substantial benefits.

"It's either all or nothing in the world of viral," Southgate suggested, although Millward Brown is developing a predictive tool that will help brand owners identify potential "hits".

Further presentations at MAP 2010 were given by Gabriel Hughes, analytics director at Google, Jeremy Bullmore, non-executive director of WPP Group, and Rory Sutherland, vice-chairman of Ogilvy UK.

A full report from Measuring Advertising Performance 2010 will be available on Warc soon.

Data sourced from Warc