Coca-Cola, the soft-drinks manufacturer, is drawing on various lessons from China as it seeks to understand how the period of “graduated re-openings” may take shape once the threat of COVID-19 begins to recede.

James Quincey, Coca-Cola’s chief executive, suggested on a conference call with investors that the pandemic will have three main phases: social distancing, re-openings, and then a new normal.

“We can look to China for some early learnings about the various phases,” Quincey said. (For more, read WARC’s in-depth report: Coca-Cola’s three-stage model for responding to COVID-19.)

The world’s most populous nation has entered a stage that Quincey described as representing the “graduated re-opening of society, still with the spectre of the virus over us, with the reality of an impacted economy.”

In terms of growth expectations, Coca-Cola’s revenue situation in China by 21 April was “getting close to neutral”, albeit “still below where we were last year, and where we were in January”, Quincey said.

Coca-Cola has “paused” its brand marketing spend due to the COVID-19 outbreak, and its “earliest re-engagement” will work alongside “the recovery in China,” the firm’s CEO reported.

“As we anticipate a recovery in China, we’re planning key actions with bottlers to regain momentum, including our pre-summer sales promotion and increased cooler placement,” he added.

There is no room for complacency, however. Even as the recovery begins, noted Quincey, “it’s important to emphasise that doesn’t mean it's over” in a definitive sense.

“The situation in China could certainly continue to evolve. It is simply too soon to estimate exactly what might lay ahead. That’s why we’re taking swift action now to adapt in the near-term while best positioning ourselves for success later.”

Although the insights from China will undoubtedly be useful for Coca-Cola’s international markets, the organisation knows they will not be universally applicable elsewhere.

“While we’re encouraged by the improving trends in China, we recognize other countries may not follow the same trajectory and changes in social distancing practices may be gradual,” said Quincey.

Sourced from WARC