coke brand strategy

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Coca-Cola’s key good-at is “refreshment.” There are few, few things better than a cold Coke on a warm day after a workout.  And when the consumer care-about is refreshment, a great product choice is Coke. Remember, brand strategy is about good-ats and care-abouts. 

Refreshment, rather than, longtime advertising attribute “happiness,” is an experiential, product-based proof. It’s a product reality. Coke’s current advertising tagline (brand line) is “Taste The Feeling.” An amalgam of cheerleading and emotion.   It is not a product based care-about or good-at. It’s advertising based.

Don’t get me wrong, I love advertising. Dave Trott teaches me the way to do it well it to connect. But connecting with the art is not the same as connecting with the product. Of course it’s harder to create compelling stories and poetry around products – but that’s the job.    

Brand planners need to focus the work on product-based care-abouts and good-ats. Coke should know better.



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coke taste the feeling

Coke, at the behest of new CMO Marcos de Quinto, has jettisoned “Open Happiness.” It’s a move I applaud. What’s The Idea? readers familiar with my battle cry “Campaigns come and go…a powerful brand idea is indelible” have heard me say ad nauseam that “happiness” is not an endemic, ownable brand idea.

Mr. de Quinto’s new marketing strategy is quite good. Much of his justification for the new campaign is smart. Read the Ad Age story here. The “One Coke” strategy is brilliant in fact. “Sell Cokes not Coke.” Lots of good rationale. Where he goes off track is when it comes to advertising — as is often the case. He bought great advertising. His anthem spot gives one goosebumps; it’s what great anthem ads do. Problem is, it’s “Open Happiness” all over again. This time the line is “Taste The Feeling.” Sure we get a little product feature in there, but taste, even as a verb, is a generic descriptor. And Coke isn’t the best tasting soft drink anyway.

The Coke brand strategy is and ever shall be “refreshment.” I could write great refreshment copy and place it over the anthem spot and sell more Cokes. The marketing framework for the new campaign is strong. The campaign is good ad craft, but it’s built upon the wrong idea.

Coke will have killer numbers this year, thanks to big ad spending and the Rio Summer Olympics – a huge showcase for the campaign. But Mr. de Quinto and his peeps will feel the stasis that comes from good ad craft and poor idea-craft in about a year and a half.

Speak to you then. Peace.

PS. Using 6 ad agencies is also a good accounting ploy, but bad for the idea.





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coke and bottle logo

I’d like to buy the world a Coke and keep it company” were the words Bill Backer scribbled on a napkin during an unscheduled stop in Ireland one morning. Those words eventually gave birth to one of the world’s most memorable TV commercials: Hilltop. In today’s NYT, Mr. Backer recounted the basic idea “to see Coke not as it was originally designed to be – a liquid refresher – but as a tiny bit of commonality between all peoples (angry travelers in an airport), a universally liked formula that would help keep them company for a few minutes.”

An equally powerful Coke commercial, remembered simply as “Mean Joe Greene,” sees an injured, tired, defeated and grumpy football player consoled by a little kid with a Coke. It does not play Mr. Backer’s “company” card. He doesn’t need company, he’s limping to the locker room.

The fact is, both of these spots have plots. Both use different strategies. What they share, whether solving the world’s ills or an individual’s is the need to refresh. The current iteration of Coke advertising, by Wieden+Kennedy, is the “happiness” campaign. It’s some really great work. But happiness is an outcome of refreshment. Coca-Cola is not pot. It’s not Xanax.

Coke ad strategies have changed over time according to its ad agents. According to its taglines. But the brand strategy remains the same: refreshment. There is no escaping it. Don’t reinvent it, embrace it.





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