Coca-cola should be more sociable

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  • September 30, 2009

Coca-cola has said this week that it intends to pursue a much more aggressive digital marketing presence.

While that choice of words is probably best consigned to an industry magazine,  the soft drinks giant is clearly reaping the benefits of brand engagement – claiming to have a mailing list of 13 million customers in the US thanks to its My Coke Rewards site and similar success with its UK counterpart, Coke Zone.

Coke Zone

As many companies still struggle to integrate an online offering into their marketing campaigns, Coke seems to be thriving.

Tried and tested

Both Coke Zone and its American counterpart My Coke Rewards use two tried and tested marketing devices to excellent affect.

The first bit is simply an exercise in sales promotion which encourages Coke drinkers to buy the product and use points they are given with each purchase to collect prizes online.

To collect your rewards or prizes you have to register, providing Coke with an excellent opportunity for a bit of old fashioned data capture.

Now on the site you are presented with an array of content and rewards split into popular categories – including music, fashion, games and sport- and groups that reflect the company’s different consumers, e.g Diet Coke. This is Coke’s second masterstroke – converging interesting content from other channels (TV ad campaigns and sponsorship) with desirable affiliate products to create an exciting multimedia node.

Et voila, you have customers supping endless cans and bottles of fizzy goodness to claim points for rewards and a heavily branded site which appeals to consumers by offering a range of content (there also games, avatars and myspace skins on offer) – not to mention a huge mailing list to boot.

Coca-cola community

This all sounds so good so far. But at some point the My Coke Rewards and Coke Zone sales promotion campaigns will end (likely along seasonal lines before Christmas or ahead of next year’s World Cup) and without creating  a lasting community online, Coke will fail to retain the engagement they have so successfully won and the two sites will fade into the ether.

Coca-cola is a little bit afraid of social media. The brand’s popular Facebook fan page wasn’t actually set up by the company. And while Coke Zone has a twitter profile and My Coke Rewards has a Facebook page, neither are particularly well used or maintained.

In some ways they seem to have missed a fantastic opportunity. While gaining a massive mailing list is great result for the campaign in a traditional marketing sense, they had an opportunity to lead the conversation by creating and managing a lasting online community that really loves Coke.

Other companies (including mobile phone retailer Phones4U with Ubar) have recognised the advantage of creating exclusive online communities for their customers. Will Coca-cola also stop selling so hard and start communicating?

Joel Turner

About Joel Turner

  • Nicola

    ‘A much more aggressive digital marketing presence’ doesn’t sound very friendly to me. As you say, such a huge cooperation should surely be trying to concentrate on building a more sociable and engaging long-term marketing image. It’s customers don’t want to feel bombarded with forceful marketing strategies, instead they want to be communicated with as real people, not just as email addresses or mobile phone numbers. Afterall, who is ever pleased when they receive a text and find out it’s from some company rather than a real person? There are ways round this of course; alerting you by text when somebody has replied to your online post for example – still advertises the company, keeping it at the forefront of your mind, but in a much more subtle, less aggressive way.

    Announcing that they intend to pursue a much more lively digital and social marketing presence would have certainly set them off on a better footing with their consumers. I think you’re spot on when you say they seem to be completely missing a fantastic opportunity here to create a lasting community online. Interesting article, thanks Joel.

  • MJ Ray

    A whole article about Coke and social media that doesn’t even mention ? Wow, that’s surprising.

  • Joel Turner

    Hi MJ,

    Good call. I didn’t know about that campaign – it definitely looks worthwhile and straightforward, something you’d think they’d jump at. To my mind it is just another example of how Coke is not connecting with its customers.

    Coke does have this warm and fuzzy CSR-led site – -but it doesn’t look well used or useful.


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