When social media began to dominate the world, Coca Cola hoped it was a fad. Joining the trend would mean revolutionising their entire marketing culture.
It’s one of the biggest ironies of the social media space. At first, the world’s most sociable consumer brand was floored by a sudden shift in the marketing landscape.
With the rise of social media, Coca Cola found itself a wallflower, watching from the sidelines, as new, upstart brands began to monopolise the hearts and minds of young people worldwide.
All of a sudden trendy youngsters had become obsessed with tweeting and iPads. Coca Cola became peripheral to the real time documenting of youth, life, love and good times – all its proud brand properties since the days of the “Mad Men” of Madison Avenue.
While strategising how to adapt its marketing strategy to the increasingly social web, Coca Cola marketing executives were frank about the cultural challenge they faced.
Historically, they had always maintained market share and brand dominance by buying attention.
Not by sweet-talking customers.
The usual route had been to fire up their ad agencies to pitch huge creative ideas, then plough these into TV ads en masse, until the consumer was thoroughly “brandwashed”.
Big budgets ruled back then. Not so much now.
In the end, Coca Cola’s marketing team could no longer stay on the sidelines. The whole playing field had changed. A whole new world beckoned, and respectfully and cautiously, they decided to change their marketing culture.
A New Playing Field
Change would be strategic, would be built up steadily, not by throwing big budgets at social media – the rules of which were still being defined. They would not just tag social media and content marketing onto their existing media mix. The party boy would change his moves and learn to flirt with consumers in a whole new way.
The marketing team piloted a few radical changes on a small scale – nice campaign ideas and a story-led corporate website in the UK, later copied by the US site. Response from consumers built confidence in a whole new way of doing things. The Coca-Cola marketing machine was slowly gearing itself up to take control of the brand new social world.
Its temporary social inhibitions would soon be a thing of the past.
20% of Its Budget For Storytelling
In 2011 Coca-Cola started to show signs of its former marketing confidence. CEO Muktar Kent stated that 20% of its £2.5 billion global marketing spend would go to inbound media (mainly content, social media and SEO). And Coke’s creative heads announced that Coca-Cola was shifting to a storytelling approach.
In 2012 stories about the company continuing to champion storytelling were signals of bold change.
The most sociable brand in the world was finally stepping back onto the dance floor, to lead the dance. Confident in its ability to seduce consumers again.