What can we learn from Coca Cola’s most successful campaign

With all the slogans and commercials crying for our attention, it’s no surprise that the best ideas come from slowing down and putting your customers right in the centre of your product. Literally in the centre. Even if it means a complete removal of your logo.

When I was in a kindergarten, or even primary school, it was an ultimate flex to own things with my own name on it. If it didn’t, I still wrote my name on it with a marker to make sure everyone knew it was mine. This universal desire for personalised products is just one of the many reasons why the following ‘Share a Coke’ campaign was so deservedly successful. So successful, their shift from unified global messaging to personalised experience redefined the way marketing works nowadays.

“We aren’t trendy anymore!”

The “Share a Coke” campaign made its debut in Australia in 2011. And for a reason, a significant part of young Aussies (Some sources say even 50%) had never even tasted Coca Cola in their entire life! Simply put, Coca Cola and their past success was dying out together with the older generations.

Hence the objective became clear, to make Coca Cola “cool” again and relatable to younger generations. In this case, millennials spending more and more time online and on social medias. Put in business terms, sell more products to low performing, but high potential target audience.

The concept Coca Cola’s came up with together with Ogilvy agency was simple yet genius. (Let’s not pretend the simplest ideas tend to be the hardest to come up with though.) The infamous logo on every bottle and can was replaced by a “Share a Coke with” tagline, together with 150 most popular names. Next, they included a hashtag #shareacoke to encourage people share it online. The entire campaign was additionally supported by other channels, like TV commercials, banners around cities or huge digital billboards. All with the same unified messaging.

The campaign caused a huge wave of excitement, even beyond the targeted audience. Using the hashtag, people started sharing bottles and cans with their name all around their social medias. Resulting in 7% growth among the millennials, more than 500.000 photos shared and 250 millions of drinks sold in less than one year since the launch. That’s on average 10 bottles per one Australian! “Share a Coke” campaign also managed to get featured on national tv channels and news, boosting their initiatives even further, basically for free.

Soon enough, the campaign was replicated in other regions of the world, creating an entire global movement. I remember myself taking pictures of the bottle with my name on it, even though I don’t consider myself Coca Cola’s target audience, even back then. I simply had to get at least one.

What did Coca Cola actually achieve?

Keep in mind that the product itself stayed exactly the same. So yet again we can learn that even though the actual product doesn’t change, the experience and emotion we are selling it with can drastically change the outcome of our business initiatives. In this campaign, the most significant symbols are a strong sense of self-expression and social interaction. People suddenly had an opportunity to belong to a movement, also knows as ‘tribalism’. Which is a very powerful concept, because we naturally strive to be a part of a certain group. If we are not, our lives become unfulfilled.

Moreover, it transforms the drink into a cute little gift that would always bring a smile to your face. Which sparks friendship, happiness or good memories.

It’s important to mention, that Coca Cola ranks among the most well-recognised brands in the world. Hence why removing their logo, without compromising their brand identity, isn’t actually that big of a deal. Because the associations between the iconic red can with white details run deep within our collective consciousness. Therefore, replicating the same strategy may not get you immediate results unless you possess a well-established reputation within your defined target audience and market.

Key takeaways for us

If you have a growing business, here are a few key learnings you can brainstorm on and potentially apply to your own brand.

a. Find the psychological sweet spot between your customer and your brand

Achieving the neat balance of your brand objectives and your customers’ desires takes time. The Coca Cola’s campaign helped buyers align with the highest level of psychological needs such as belongingness, esteem, and self-expression. Which perfectly fit into people’s personal narratives and goals. Your job is to do the same, define what psychological needs and narratives your brand should fit into. So your customers feel the role and meaning of your brand in their lives.

So ask yourself, what problems do you solve for them? How does your brand currently address these needs? What narratives do your customers associate with your brand? How can you leverage these to deepen their connection with your products or services?

b. Personal experience as a rising trend

The introduction of personalised drinks lit up a completely new spark into an aging product. The desire for personal and custom experience is a rising trend. And most likely won’t stop anytime soon.

If you have a service, explore ways how you can let your customer customise your offer. What aspects of your service can be tailored to meet their individual needs or preferences? Maybe flexible pricing, personalized recommendations, or exclusive access to special features. Or if possible, consider something as simple as dropping by their office. Building a personal connection can go a long way.

If you have a physical product, consider, for example, putting in the package a short “Thank you” note with the customer’s name. This can be even stronger if you actually write it by your own hand, not just print it. Another example is including a small, unexpected gift. Every little “extra” can do wonders in creating positive associations with your brand, exponentially increasing the probability of future purchase or recommendation.

c. Your brand as a platform to express one-self

People want to belong to communities. And your brand could become a great platform under which they could gather and engage with each other. Consider hosting events, creating online forums or social media groups, or other opportunities for customers to connect with each other. By building a community where like-minded individuals can share experiences and engage with your brand, you deepen their sense of belonging and loyalty.

Additionally, can your customers become brand advocates and ambassadors within their own networks? Can they share it on their social medias? Or is there any other way you can you create a sense of community around your brand?

So there you have it, I hope you learned something new and it sparked some new ideas in your head. Because in the end, challenging our current business activities is the main way how we can move forward. And build a brand with a lasting and unforgettable impact. Cheers!

Written by

Jan Minarik

A specialist in brand-centric and creative solutions to improve brands’ credibility and design unified customer experience across all promotional platforms.

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