Coca-Cola carries the vision of its marketing future on one piece of paper. It includes developing and executive creative marketing programs across the globe using a handle it calls, “liquid and linked.” The strategy centers on storytelling; taking great, fun, creative stories and spreading them to the furthest reaches of the world using, in part, the muscularity of mobile and social media, or, as Coca-Cola puts it, modern day word of mouth.
“Storytelling is the most powerful way to spread messages into the world,” Wendy Clark, the senior vice president of integrated marketing communications and capabilities at Coca-Cola said. “If we think back to the beginning of time, we have always told stories. For us it’s always been about this power.”
To aid in the creation of its own stories the company has studied such great and powerful storytellers such as Martin Luther King Jr. and his electrifying “I have a Dream” speech. And over the course of its 125 years, has used its own stories to create one of the most recognized brands in the world.
“Even 100 years ago the silhouette of the Coke bottle could be recognized in the dark or even smashed on the ground,” Clark said as she spoke last week at the 2011 ANA Mobile Marketing Conference in New York City. And Coke continues to capitalize on that recognition in its marketing, often using images of the bottle without the word Coke. As an example, she showed a slide of a 60 by 60-foot billboard Coke erected in July in Manila made of Fukien tea plants that cover the board with the exception of white space in the center shaped like a bottle of Coke.
But the talk of the day was mobile marketing—76% of the U.S. population are mobile users—and Clark said it now infiltrates every aspect of marketing at Cola-Cola and has to function in every paid, earned, owned or shared media space. It ran its first global mobile program about two years ago, activating in nine of the 206 countries where its products are sold. Each of the Coca-Cola’s 2,700 marketers across the globe have been conducting mobile programs for a year or two gleaning knowledge—good and bad—that is being shared companywide.
“A lot of the learning is failure and we need to talk about what’s not working. We need to call out the challenges and complexities to find solutions. The challenge is we can spread the wrong thing perfectly,” Clark said.
To aid in the process, the digital group has been disbanded with a goal to mainstream mobile marketing so all marketers capabilities grow. Some 10% of Coca-Cola’s marketing investments are for experimenting with mobile, she said.
In keeping with its story telling strategy, the company has been looking at the role mobile plays in creating and spreading those stories. With an estimated 8 trillion texts to be thumbed out this year, Clark said that SMS is now the most impactful way for it to communicate with consumers but should always be used in a supporting role. She offered an example of a collectible bottle game with 7-Eleven in Taiwan that included mobile, gaming, a location-based promotion, mobile coupons, augmented reality and social. That program was so unexpectedly successful that more collectible bottles had to be created.
“Mobile is not a silver bullet in and of itself, it is part of the plan. The future is doing all of this together,” she said.
In another example, during a Sprite “Slam Dunk” mobile promotion that integrated with a TV spot, 4.3 million votes were cast in 10 minutes. In another, executed in Europe for Fanta, people could use their mobiles to download an app that would transform their voices when they spoke with friends. Clark showed a video of Joe pranking one of his male friends by pretending to be a girl that noticed him and liked him. At the end of the call he tells the friend he’s been pranked and posts the recording on Facebook, which of course went virally wild, likely to the chagrin of his friend.
“Backed by social, the app worked so much harder,” Clark said.
About $1.1 billion will be spent on mobile marketing this year, the fastest growing digital channel. Even so, that comprises only 3.4% of the total $31 billion digital spend in the U.S., according to Geoff Ramsey, the chief executive officer of eMarketer.
The Mobile Wallet
Coca-Cola is now working on mobile commerce. It is currently testing mobile commerce in 200 vending machines with Google Wallet where consumers can simply scan their phones in front of the machine and purchase a beverage.
“That’s significant for us. Think about how that can move and change our business. Mobile commerce combined with location-based services is moving Coke’s business from point-of-sale to point-of-thirst, and that’s an incredible proposition for us,” she said.
The company’s agenda for mobile has six legs:
1. Value Creating value with mobile by creating or doing something that is talk worthy and gets passed along.
2. Integrate The best and highest performing mobile programs are activated in a total marketing environment.
3. Think Horizontally across your business and make sure you are ready to integrate from a capability aspect.
4. Do More Good, Not More More There is 25 hours of content being loaded to YouTube every minute. You want relevancy, a great story.
5. Collaborate Mobile is a very complex ecosystem—brands, carriers, app developers, businesses, etc.—you need to be highly collaborative to be successful.
6. Do Not Accept the Status Quo An eight-week approval timeline with a carrier is not acceptable. Challenge barriers and work to change them so marketers can advance in mobile.
“We are really restless, we are not close to thinking we have it cracked,” Clark said.