Coca-Cola Awarded for Advertising Innovation

Coca-Cola Won AdAge's Marketer of the Year in 2011

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

When the Coca-Cola Company was named "Marketer of the Year" by AdAge in 2011, the flagship brand was 125 years old, but even today, the company is not too old to learn. Coke's marketing strategies have produced some volatility over the long-haul, but part of that is due to the willingness of Coke to innovate. Apparently, the marketing overhaul has worked.

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 were inconsistent.
  3. 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

As of 2011, Coca-Cola officially 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 startup 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—which some call marketing stunts—accomplished a great deal on a moderate budget. There were many good reasons for naming Coca-Cola as Marketer of the Year in 2011, including:

  • Diet Coke became the number two brand of soda, convincingly edging out Pepsi.
  • 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 the interactive brand charts.
  • Coke was leading the growth of the company with global sales volume up by 3% year-to-date.

Successful Marketing Campaigns Summarized by AdAge

The following marketing campaigns were among the ones that won Coca-Cola the top honors in 2011:

  • Less Serious: Fanta was selling 3% 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 were drinking orange juice away from the breakfast table thanks to this Doner campaign.
  • StyleCaster: Diet Coke was focused on keeping the number 2 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-hour session in a London recording studio to create a new original song for this global teen-focused campaign that went to 130 markets.
  • Zamezi: This helped put Smartwater in viral mode with nearly 10 million views on YouTube for the tongue-in-cheek video featuring Jennifer Aniston.
  • World Wildlife Fund: The Leo Burnett agency turned 1.4 billion Coke cans white for the holiday season for polar bear conservation efforts. Pio Schunker, former senior vice president of integrated marketing platforms, was focused on making this campaign the most integrated Coca-Cola partnership to date.

Advertising Agency Partners

Coke and Diet Coke were handled by Wieden & Kennedy, Coke Zero and Vitaminwater were handled by Crispin Porter & Bogusky, and Ogilvy & Mather handled Coca-Cola Freestyle (a first ad push) and Fanta. 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 than 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."

Forward Thinking

Market research for Coca-Cola Freestyle moved to innovate in food service with Freestyle, a next-generation soda fountain concept that contained 125 different flavors of sports drinks, lemonades, flavored waters, sports drinks, and 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.

3-Pronged Approach

The Coca-Cola Company is taking a 3-pronged approach to growth:

  1. Product innovation
  2. Packaging innovation
  3. Consumer engagement

Mr. Tripodi reported to AdAge that in 2011, Coca-Cola developed a 2020 Vision, which it intends to double the system revenue and volume of the serving to about 3 billion per day.

Coca-Cola is hoping to duplicate the efforts of its 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."