Life of Coca-Cola’s Marketing

BY ASHLEY MAK AND DANIEL JOYCEcocacolaOriginally intended as a patent medicine in 1886, Coca-Cola (or Coke) has risen to its current status of dominant distributor in the soft-drink market and has maintained that position throughout the 20th Century.

But how exactly has Coca-Cola not only survive, but flourish in such a demanding, dynamic market? After an analysis of the company’s most recent product launches, it is evident that such achieving and maintaining dominance primarily lies in its adaptive variety of marketing tactics.

We have identified two of Coca-Cola’s recent marketing campaigns in particular that demonstrate their strength and versatility in the field: “Share a Coke” campaign and Coca-Cola “Life”.

“SHARE A COKE” CAMPAIGN

Once any organisation stops thinking of new ways to advertise and market they will fall behind. Coke hasn’t stopped thinking. For instance one majorly successful campaign was the ‘Share a Coke’ campaign.

In 2011 Coca Cola believed they’re brand was becoming stale in the Australian market. Through their previous ‘Bottle Blast’ campaign of 2009 the organization realized people weren’t buying their product – the product was too familiar to people. They were also aware that younger people were not becoming involved, or even tasting their core product.

With this the organization came up with a new advertising campaign targeting not just younger people, but a whole nation. It was a simple but effective campaign that saw 150 names put on the labels of Coca Cola bottles in Australia. Although with the number of names they were printing the company was aware that they would only be able to reach 42 percent of the population.

share-a-cokePrior to the campaign, Coke (and other soda manufacturers) saw a decline in sales due to the increased popularity of bottled water and low-calorie sports drinks. Since the campaign however, Coca-Cola saw a massive increase in sales with a 7% increase in Coke consumption worldwide (which is a lot when you consider the number of consumers already active prior). In addition, the company saw a 2.5% increase in total sales and soft-drink volume went up 0.4%.

The campaign pandered towards people’s love for personalized products and collectability – as evident by the rise in sales despite the product itself staying the same. It particularly took off on social media, with the hash-tag #shareacoke trending heavily during its release and consumers posting images of themselves with their names on Coke bottles.

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COCA-COLA “LIFE”

Critics of Coca-Cola consumption often targeted the health concerns of ingesting such large amounts of sugar on a regular basis (a typical can of Coke – 355ml – contains 39 grams of sugar) as this was closely associated to health issues such as diabetes and weight gain. As a result, Coke spent 5 years developing a new line of product that reduced sugar content, replacing it with a renown, lower calorie, natural alternative called Stevia.

d1lwft0f0qzya1.cloudfront.netThey altered packaging design from its iconic red to an olive green to pander towards a more environmental impression (in association with Stevia being known as a “natural sweetener alternative”). In some countries (i.e. Argentina), they even changed the bottle itself, replacing glass with a recyclable petroleum-based material.

However, besides a mere design change, Coca-Cola did extensive marketing efforts to promote their new line:

  • The United States was the first country to roll out Coke Life. During the initial phases, they organized approximately 4000 events at stores whereby people could sample the drink for free.
  • The United Kingdom followed soon after in releasing the product. Coca-Cola utilized endorsement from British model and actress Rosie Huntington-Whiteley to promote the drink at a Launch Party in London.
  • The Telegraph, a British news distributor, sent correspondents into the street to conduct taste tests with random individuals. The result was highly supportive of the taste of Coca-Cola Life
  • And most importantly, the company itself has since led several health initiatives since the release of “Life” aims to promote lower obesity rates. The organization insisted on associating the new release with its stance on promoting health.

The question of whether Coca-Cola Life is truly healthier is a debate for another topic. What is evident here, however, is the success of its marketing for existing (“Share a Coke” initiative) and new products (Coca-Cola Life). Since the release of Coke “Life”, competitors such as Pepsi have seized the opportunity to follow suit and have released their version with explicit similarity: Pepsi True.

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With Coca-Cola acting as a prime example of effective campaigning and advertising, questions for discussion could include:

– How would/could other companies learn from such marketing prowess?
– Would these methods be applicable to other companies (tangible/non tangible products)?
– Are there any examples of organizations that have tried the same/similar method and not gotten a similar (successful) result? If they didn’t, why would that be?

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10 thoughts on “Life of Coca-Cola’s Marketing

  1. “Green is the new Black”.
    Just like “no animal test” shampoos few years ago and Muji’s recycle paper notebook. Now we have moss carpet, looks like grass but made from imputrescible foam, traditional industries and brands are showing their “environment friendly” side, trying to keep up with the pace of time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes hufang2015, but it is called “greenwashing” when a company merely makes it look like they are trying to be socially and environmentally conscious to the consumer, without actually positively impacting social or environmental outcomes of their business activity. I would like to think consumers are smarter than this, which will eventually result in companies needing to actually improve their social and environmental performance to remain competitive. Peattie and Crane (2005) address the fact that the result of greenwashing is distrust between the consumer and the market.

      Reference:
      Peattie, K, Crane, A 2005, ‘Green marketing: legend, myth, farce or prophesy?’, An International Journal, vol. 8, no. 4, pp. 357-370, retrieved 27 November 2014, .

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  2. Thank-you for the post.

    I would agree that the first campaign was brilliant, the marketers knew they didn’t need to focus on ‘Cognition’; they had that already. Instead, knowing that they were in the maturity phase of the product life cycle they added that personal touch focusing on ‘Affect’. I would propose that 150 names indirectly reaches much more than 42% of the population, surely everyone knows someone with one of those names!

    I’m unsure whether the promotion of coke life has been effective in Australia. The first I heard of it was seeing it it in the supermarket and chose to stick to zero as my preference. Its interesting that Pepsi is launching another product given they introduced “Pepsi Next” a few years ago which was essentially the exact same thing as “Coke Life”! I can only assume that they didn’t promote it correctly during its introduction.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great blog. For me I think you could discuss McDonalds in relation to a company that has tried to have success with the introduction of a healthier menu, but perhaps have not had the results they were hoping for. It was definitely a smart move to introduce healthier options to cater for those people who want something fast, but not so bad for you.

    I think though that they have and are still having a difficult time trying to shake off the image they have worked so hard previously to attain. In today’s world people are reading the labels more, looking at how much saturated fat, sugar and salt are in products, I know I do. And people are realising that they need to avoid these types of foods, and try not to feed them to their kids. Yet drive past your local McDonalds at 6pm any night of the week and you are guaranteed to see the place full of families getting dinner because its cheap and easy. Go further in your investigation and you will find most younger kids probably eating happy meals so they get the toy, and most adults eating burgers because they don’t see McDonalds as the place to have a salad.

    Don’t get me wrong. I applaud McDonalds for trying their best to offer the healthy option, and I’m sure some people do select from it. But I still see more people, maybe like me, thinking ‘I’ll just have a big mac, we’re not here that often’, and looking at the healthy menu for a minute, then realising they’re not sure if it will be any good, or if they will like it, so they go with what they know – burger, fries and a coke thanks!!

    This goes a long way to proving that we are mostly creatures of habit, and whilst we would like to do the right thing and eat the healthy option, we still find that old habits die hard, and that change is hard to accept.

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  4. It would be hard for most products to be marketed the same way as coke. With their large budget and their stranglehold on the world, few products have the chance to do this.

    I can’t think of many products that use the same personalised approach coke did. However I do see the issue of how coke couldn’t reach a larger percentage of the public. As Australia is a multicultural society it would be difficult to create a bottle for each product. Perhaps they could of studied the percentage of foreign residences in certain cities, and chosen the top 5 names for the culture and advertised to them.

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  5. The campaign of Coca-cola went beyond customized bottles. Coke created interactive billboards and websites as well as traveling kiosks where people could get more unique named Coke products. The integrated marketing technique has received success. I think that the integrated marketing created a cohesive message that was available on every communication channel.
    The main lesson to be learned from the success of Coke’s “Share a Coke” campaign: people love personalized products when it is unexpected. For Coke to print bottles with someone’s name on it makes that person feel special and appreciated. Of course consumers will take the extra step to seek out the product featuring their name, and while they are at it, they will buy bottles for their friends, and why not post pictures to Instagram or Twitter or Facebook as well? We all know that social media play a huge role in today’s world. The campaign created a domino effect that helped the campaign gain attention therefore increase sales for Coke.

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  6. I agree names on bottles was fun and motivated us to buy Coke.

    According to Associate Professor Tim Crowe, Deakin University, School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recent draft recommendation is to eat no more than 12 teaspoons (50 grams) per day, and to aim for even half of that amount.

    http://www.deakin.edu.au/news/latest-media-releases/2015-media-releases-archives/should-we-take-that-sugar-film-with-a-grain-of-salt

    Coke Life with it’s environmentally responsible ‘Green Labelling’, has 35% less sugar, which is good, and the focus is on Stevia, a natural sweetener from Paraguay, is also good.

    A 590 ml Bottle of Coke, standard size, has a total of 65g of sugar, and Coke Life has 42g of sugar, so compare that to the WHO’s recommendations and that is near the recommended daily intake maximum.

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  7. Coke’s UK marketing director, Bobby Brittain, has said: ‘We know exactly who our Coke Life will appeal to.” He posits it will appeal to 20 and 30 “something’s” who are trying to consume healthier foods. I am sure a business of Coke’s size would have done the market research to back up this comment. However, other critics have pointed to the fact that simply lowering the sugar content does not make this a healthy product.

    Their IMC campaigns have been very comprehensive in other countries and they are just beginning to ramp up in Australia. They had a taste booth in the local supermarket last weekend which, by the size of the queue, seemed very popular. Until the results of this campaign can be measured (increased sales, awareness, repeat purchases etc.) it is difficult to comment on the effectiveness of these actions. It appears that their main goal, as described by Brittain above, may be to retain existing consumers who may well have lowered their consumption of regular Coke. This could be combined with a secondary goal to attract new consumers who would not ordinarily drink Coke due to the adverse health associations.

    Again, until the results are clear the jury is out.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2815775/Green-Coke-calorie-free-leaf-sweetener-South-America-sugar-regular-critics-warn-s-marketing-gimmick.html

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    • Coca-Cola did very well with the names on the bottles! Coke in my country is not a very popular drink, people tend to choose fruit flavored drinks over the fizzy beverages.

      However with the introduction of names on the bottle, especially ethnic names to match the population, many consumers where rushing to the stores to find their name. Does that mean that coke now has more repeat consumers? I think not, i have walked into many offices and houses and found coke cans with consumers names unopened.

      I think people just like things with their on it.

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  8. Coca-Cola did very well with the names on the bottles! Coke in my country is not a very popular drink, people tend to choose fruit flavored drinks over the fizzy beverages.

    However with the introduction of names on the bottle, especially ethnic names to match the population, many consumers where rushing to the stores to find their name. Does that mean that coke now has more repeat consumers? I think not, i have walked into many offices and houses and found coke cans with consumers names unopened.

    I think people just like things with their name on it.

    Like

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