Coca-Cola’s personalized bottles have taken stores and social media by storm in North America. Launched two years ago in Australia, the “Share a Coke” campaign, which features the top 1,000 names and nicknames in addition to the Coke logo on bottles, have now been rolled out in North America in summer of 2014, and consumers have been going online or visiting Coke’s traveling kiosks to find names that haven’t been featured.
96% of Coke consumers report positive associations with the brand, and the “Share a Coke” campaign has become a summer sales leader in the beverage category. What makes Coke’s “Share a Coke” marketing campaign so spectacular is not simply their gift of novelty to consumers.
Here are the 3 branding lessons from “Share a Coke”.
1. Let your consumers do the marketing for you.
Donnie McGilvray, a Coke consumer, recently proposed to his girlfriend Eloise using six personalized Coke bottles that spelled out “Beautiful Eloise, will you marry me”, which he snapped a photo of and posted on Coke’s Facebook page. The photo has since generated massive media attention with over one million “likes” on Facebook, and Coke responded with a personalized congratulatory message for the newly engaged couple.
Coke’s essence, which is that of a friendly, consumer-focused brand, has made moments like these possible. Coke has consistently been one of the most responsive brands when it comes to sharing or replying to social media messages, and consumers show their appreciation by generating crowd-sourced content for Coke. Direct conversations with consumers humanize their interactions with Coke’s brand, and the timely fashion with which Coke responds to both positive (and negative) messages is appreciated—and rewarded—by today’s wired consumers.
For Your Store: Think about how you can engage existing customers so that they would want to do the marketing for you and become brand advocates. Depending on the type of store you run, consider running online contests that require hashtags and social media sharing to enter, or sponsor trendsetters like bloggers or YouTubers with a large following in your category. Even if it’s a small contest, a well executed campaign can translate into big results.
2. Build a community around your brand.
The “Share a Coke” campaign is built on the idea of the search: the search for the name, the nickname, the unique identifier. Coke understands Millennials’ need for personalization very well, and has spawned a colossal #ShareACoke hashtag community on Twitter, Instagram, and other popular social networks, as people document their search. The Coke community shares everything from snapshots of bizarre names, to requests for help in finding specific names, to pictures of Coke bottles removed from their shelves in a great heap as consumers toil away, trying to find their names, and bond with each other online over the process.
Some of the #ShareACoke consumer content has attained a meme status. An example is a funny snapshot of a personalized Coke by @itsStephGee with the name “Dana” crossed out and written over with pen to read “No Dana, only Zuul” (a popular reference to the original Ghostbusters movie), which has since been retweeted and favourited over 1,000 times. The “Share A Coke” campaign has, through a great understanding of their consumers and their passions, created a loyalty community built not just around the personalization of consumers’ names, but of their creativity and ideas as well.
For Your Store: Where are your customers most likely to be found? What are their passions, interests, and causes they care deeply about, and how can you use your brand to exemplify them? Mine your loyalty and website analytics to construct a customer profile, and then create a strategy to retain and attract that customer. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback—start conversations with customers where they already exist, such as a newsletter, social media channels, or forums, and let them know you appreciate their opinions.
3. Know what works—and stick with it!
No matter how well planned your marketing campaign or brand initiative is, you can’t predict everything. What you can do is iterate on your results and improve what works. For Coca-Cola, marketing campaigns based on uniting people has had the most impact, from the Coke Happiness Machine to the cross-continental FIFA 2014 commercials, and the “Share a Coke” idea is no exception.
At its core, “Share a Coke” is a simple marketing idea, but the devil is in the details and execution determines success. Packaging was critical: producing 800 million personalized bottle labels required twenty-four hour management of label presses and operations to ensure that each name appeared in the right quantity. To connect the bottles with its “Share a Coke” communications, Coke took staples of its marketing messages throughout the years and brought what they’ve always represented to consumers to their products. The huge response Coke received therefore could not have happened without Coca-Cola’s history of sticking with its brand message of bringing people together.
For Your Store: Look at the history of your brand. What do consumers know you for, and how do you deepen their impressions of what they already know? Keep in mind that your strategy should be manageable. Coke’s success was largely a product of its execution, so be sure you get the details right before launch. Remember, it’s always easy to turn a loyal customer out of an existing customer than it is to convert a stranger.
The “Share a Coke” campaign is a fantastic example of how social media can drive sales and strengthen branding. Use the 3 branding lessons from Coke to take your marketing campaign to new heights!