My day job is digital marketing with a decidedly channel pivot (versus end customer), but that does not mean I cannot learn a lot from companies who are amazing at consumer marketing. A community is a community after all, especially in the digital era so learnings from B2B and B2C are highly transferable. One company that is truly great at marketing innovation, and has been for decades, is Coca-Cola.
Digital marketing and social media in particular have a natural gravitas for food and beverage companies. After all, sharing a Coke with a friend is one of life’s great social pleasures. Coca-Cola products are guests at most social functions in some capacity, so presence in the social media space is more than natural, it is absolutely required for Coca-Cola to get right. With a brand like Coca-Cola you simply cannot afford to be the “social” outcast.
Wendy Clark, Senior VP of Integrated Marketing Communications and Capabilities at the Coca-Cola Company recently spoke at the AdAge Digital Conference about marketing innovation in the digital era. While you would expect someone with a job title like Ms. Clark to have lots of snazzy catch phrases, you might not expect them to be so universally relevant. Coca-Cola is a large, older company with an enviable market position in numerous products after all. But even with all the marketing budget and brand horsepower that the Coca-Cola Company brings, Ms. Clark gave an inspiring and enlightening presentation.
The overarching theme of Ms. Clark’s presentation was… be gracious.
Yes, that’s right – be gracious. Being gracious with your communities, customers, indeed all your marketing activities has paid off substantially for the Coca-Cola family of products. Their internal research shows that as soon as they start to push in a community (translation, not being so gracious) the community backlashes either in small waves or large ones.
This quote from Ms. Clark sums up why being gracious is so important:
“The days of controlling the message are absolutely over. At best you’ll be invited in and you’ll get to co-create and participate with consumers.”
She went on to explain that marketing is “liquid and linked” in ways never before. Liquid because “everything communicates” as Ms. Clark says. And she is right – vending machines, trucks, even the cans themselves communicate to the consumer possibly long before they see one of your artistic print ads, or hear your new jingle on TV.
My favorite part of her presentation was talking about creating an emotional experience connection with customers via art images on the Coca-Cola cans. Basically she turned a fixed cost of operations (producing the cans) into a marketing asset. She explains that Coca-Cola has to make the cans anyway, so why not have them communicate as well! Everything communicates in the same gracious way. And that is the linked component. All your marketing, messages, community engagement must be linked back to your core brand strategy.
Why is linkage so important? Well here are some more interesting stats from Coca-Cola. On YouTube, there are 146 million pieces of content for Coca-Cola, but only 26 million, or 18% of the content was actually created by Coca-Cola. Their fans created their own content on top of the company-generated ideas, shared their content with their networks and extended Coca-Cola’s brand reach far beyond what the company could do alone. It is rather amazing when you think about it. 82% of Coca-Cola’s YouTube content was generated by their fans so this fan-generated content by definition resonates with the unique cultures of the various fan communities of Coca-Cola products. That’s right, it resonates with various cultures – allowing the Coca-Cola brands to be gracious yet again.
Building great and gracious marketing in this liquid and linked world requires a new framework to think about digital marketing. I liked Ms. Clark’s spin on how to use the widely accepted Paid-Owned-Shared-Earned digital media model that most of us use each day. She’s put an action spin on it like this:
Include storytelling content across all your media.
To net it all out… Be gracious and celebrate the community in this very liquid and linked world. It’s a new age of marketing and Coca-Cola certainly is a leader. If you need some inspiration, watch the video of Wendy Clark’s AdAge keynote – the talk track is wonderful. And with that, I think it’s time for a Coke and a smile :-)