Coca-Cola – shy steps in a new social world

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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.

Social Strategy

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.




The Ogilvy legend

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David Ogilvy, who only began his career in advertising at the age of 39, went on to become one of the most successful ad men the world has ever seen.

By the end of the Sixties he’d led Ogilvy & Mather to billings of $130 million, rankings among the top 10 agencies in the USA and the esteem of millions of ad agency execs around the world.

A reverence that continues to this day.

In 2011, to commemorate what would have been Ogilvy’s 100th birthday, the Cannes Advertising Festival rolled out the longest red carpet ever seen.

Aside from being one of the greatest copywriters who ever lived, Ogilvy was famous for his belief that ads should focus on selling products rather than entertaining people.

But in truth, he did both.

The man was a born storyteller.

But before he began telling a product story he sometimes spent as much as six weeks combing through research to find a product’s USP – unique selling

He liked to say great advertising is marked by “a burr of singularity” — a “big idea” that sticks in a person’s mind.

Such methods came to the fore in some of his most famous ads.

Dove soap’s long-lived promise — “One-quarter cleansing cream. It creams your skin while you wash” — stemmed from information Ogilvy gleaned while visiting a pharmacy.

The famous Rolls-Royce headline — “At 60 miles an hour, the loudest noise in this new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock” — was a detail buried in a research report, discovered by Ogilvy as he read everything about the car business he could find.

Sales of Rolls-Royces climbed 50 percent in 1959, a year after the campaign launched.

At times, this rational approach took an inspired turn. En route to his first Hathaway ad shoot, working with a tight budget for a print campaign, Ogilvy bought a black eye patch for $1.50 from a shop.

The legendary “man in the Hathaway shirt” brand personality was born and became closely identified with a series of eye-patch-wearing characters who collected butterflies or conducted orchestras at Carnegie Hall.

The ads made Hathaway shirts and Ogilvy instantly famous.

It was the first time that shirt advertising had focused on more than just the shirt itself.

The result?

Sales of Hathaway shirts more than doubled.

Ogilvy struck another first, as part of a campaign he created for Shell.

For the first time in history, an ad explained what went into petrol and how the ingredients in Shell petrol benefited users by giving them more mileage.

And he went on to demonstrate that message in a dramatic way in a 60 second TV ad.

Many other oil companies used similar additives in their petrol and an almost identical manufacturing process.

But they’d never bothered to tell the market about it.

Because Shell was the first to explain the process and how those additives could benefit car owners, they became the leading petrol brand in the market…

Of all the great Ad men, Ogilvy was the finest storyteller of all. Pretty ironic considering his focus was to “Sell” rather than “Entertain”.

He was a master at doing both.