Coca-Cola Awarded for Advertising Innovation

coke polar bear
••• Environmentally-Friendly Advertising Campaigns Warm Customers. Courtesy The Coca-Cola Company © 2011

The Coca-Cola® flagship brand is 125 years old, but the company is not too old to learn and does not rest on its laurels. Coke's marketing strategies have produced some volatility over the long-haul, but part of that is due to the willingness of The Coca-Cola Company® to innovate. Apparently, the marketing overhaul worked. Coca-Cola was awarded Marketer of the Year by AdAge.

According to Natalie Zmuda of AdAge, Coca-Cola's marketing focus changed in 2007 when Mr. Tripodi came on board from Allstate.

AdAge described the following marketing challenges: (1) Coca-Cola was too dependent on its flagship drink - Coke®; (2) Coca-Cola's advertising and use of advertising agencies was inconsistent; and Coca-Cola was seen as a "sluggish, hidebound marketer."

Mr. Tripodi told Zamuda he believes that the culture at Coca-Cola has a lot to do with its success. The team is said to share both the successes and the learnings from failures, which is a must given the size and scale of The Coca-Cola Company. Mr. Tripodi said, "We've got a team of people around the world that is less concerned with getting credit and more concerned with getting behind a great idea." The Coca-Cola Company could be classified as a learning organization as it has demonstrated adaptability and creativity over many decades. 

Coca-Cola As a Marketing Model

Coca-Cola has reclaimed its status as a marketing model. Coca-Cola remains one of the most interesting case studies for referencing best practices in marketing and market research.

As such, it provides examples of other mega multinational brands and for mid-size and upstart brands to consider, and follow, if they can.

Coca-Cola has brought up its share of smaller brands. The strategically identified partnerships and many creative ideas -- some call them marketing stunts -- have accomplished a great deal on a moderate budget.

There are many good reasons for naming Coca-Cola as marketer of the year - in the year 2011. Here are just a few identified by AdAge:

  • Diet Coke is now the Number Two brand of soda, leaving Pepsi in its dust.
  • The Coca-Cola Company added two billion-dollar brands to the product mix: Del Valle and Minute Maid Pulpy, which was the first of Coca-Cola's billion-dollar brands to launch in an emerging market.
  • Coca-Cola was on the top of interactive brand charts.
  • Coke is leading the growth of the company with global sales volume up by 3 percent year-to-date.

Successful Marketing Campaigns Summarized by AdAge

  • Less Serious: Fanta is selling 3 percent more year-to-date on this 190 country global campaign by Jonathan Mildenhall, Vice President of Global Advertising Strategy and Content.
  • Wake Up Your MMOJO: More men and young adults are drinking orange juice away from the breakfast table thanks to this Doner campaign.
  • StyleCaster: Diet Coke is focused on keeping the Number Two soda spot with a limited-edition can and 15-second spots in the stronger new marketing calendar.
  • Coca-Cola Music: Maroon 5 did a 24-hr Session in a London recording studio to create a new original song for this global teen-focused campaign that is going to 130 markets.
  • Zamezi helped put Smartwater in viral mode - with nearly 10 million views on YouTube -- with the tongue-in-cheek video featuring Jennifer Aniston.
  • Polar bear conservation efforts led by the World Wildlife Fund, the Leo Burnett agency turned 1.4 billion Coke cans white for the holiday season. Pio Schunker, Senior Vice President of Integrated marketing Platforms is focused on making this campaign the most integrated Coca-Cola partnership to date.

AdAge Identifies Coca-Cola's Advertising Agency Partners

Coke and Diet Coke are handled by Wieden & Kennedy. Coke Zero and Vitaminwater are handled by Crispin Porter & Bogusky. Coca-Cola Freestyle - a first ad push - and Fanta are handled by Ogilvy & Mather. There are more than a dozen non-alcoholic, ready-to-drink beverage categories in which these advertisers can make a mark for Coca-Cola.

The Coca-Cola Company has a large portfolio of brands, and it has learned to adapt its marketing strategies to create the right model against select competing brands. Smaller brands get different campaigns that do the big brands. According to Mr. Tripodi, "Our whole thinking there is around doing things in an innovative and different way that takes a smaller budget and amplifies it."

Coca-Cola Continues Out-Front Thinking

Market research for Coca-Cola Freestyle moved to innovate in food service. Freestyle is a next-generation soda fountain concept. Beverages served freestyle include 125 different flavors of sports drinks, lemonades, flavored waters, sports drinks, soft drinks. As beverages are dispensed, data is sent to the Coca-Cola headquarters telling which flavors are the most popular at certain times of the day.

Coca-Cola's Three-Pronged Approach

The Coca-Cola Company is taking a three-pronged approach to growth: (1) Product innovation, (2) packaging innovation, and (3) consumer engagement. Mr. Tripodi reported to AdAge that Coca-Cola has developed a 2020 Vision with which it intends to double the system revenue and double the servings volume to about 3 billion per day.

Over the next 10 years, Coca-Cola is hoping to duplicate the efforts of 125 years of product developing and customer wooing. Tripodi told Zmuda, "it gives you some air cover, when you're doing well, to try things, be bold, be disruptive. It all ladders up to a thought process that says [our 2020 Vision] is very achievable, if we stay disciplined and focused."