coke brand strategy

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I just read an interesting study on brand recall. The methodology used saw consumers attempt to draw from memory brand logos.  Starbucks, Target, Apple, Adidas, etc. are apparently hard to recreate when asked to put pen to paper. Much easier I would imagine, would be creating logos when given marks and type from a sort board. Visual memory is better than creative memory.

So think about how hard it must be for consumers to identify a brand strategy – the organizing principle for product, experience and messaging. The best brand strategies are embodied in taglines.  Can you sing “We are Farmers, dum, dah dum, dum, dum, dum, dum.”  Of course you can.  Is that a brand strategy? Nope. It’s advertising.

The hard work of the brand strategist, the brand planner and brand manager is getting the value story right…and hammering it home with each dollar. Creating a focused, repeatable product-based “feeling” that endures and sells is what brand strategy is all about.

If consumers can tell you what the brand claim is and explain how the product achieves that claim, that’s branding. Coke is refreshment. Google is instant answers. BMW is exhilarating driving.

Not easy, but can be done with a plan.

Peace.

 

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What’s The Idea? is the name of this branding consultancy. The idea referred to in the inquiry is the idea that drives positive commerce and profitability. “What’s the idea that drives revenue?” One might ask how an idea can translate into measurable revenue.  A fine question. Few brand strategists will go on record with an answer. Every brand idea served up by WTI can pass the revenue test.

The long standing brand idea for Coke, and management might argue this with me today, is “refreshment.” Were someone to field a quantitative research study measuring the degree to which soda drinkers agree Coke is the most refreshing choice — and track that number over time to revenue, you would have a proper test. Coke wouldn’t do it, I suspect.

I wrote a brand strategy for elder care and acute rehab facility not long ago, the idea for which was “average is the enemy.” Were a research study to be fielded among patients gauging their agreement as to how the healthcare company measured everything and outperformed others, that too, could be tied to revenue growth. 

Every brand idea should be able to pass the revenue test. That’s why it’s called strategy. Return On Strategy (ROS).

If you have a brand idea see if you have a mechanism in pace to measure it.

Peace.

 

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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.

Peace.          

 

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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.

Peace.

 

 

 

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