Turn a Soda into a Personal Experience?
The story behind the global "Share a Coke" campaign
Founded over a hundred years ago, Coca-Cola became a household name thanks to countless strong and emotionally appealing marketing campaigns. From the “Diet Coke Break” with the hunky window washer to being credited for the modern image of Santa Claus, we dive into one of the brand’s more recent successes; the “Share a Coke” campaign.
In the realm of iconic marketing campaigns, Coca-Cola's "Share a Coke" stands tall. Launched in 2011, it quickly became a global phenomenon, with people posting photos with their personalized bottle or can from all over the world.
Behind the scenes, however, this revolutionary campaign faced numerous challenges and hurdles. We delve into the remarkable journey of "Share a Coke," uncovering the creative struggles, logistical challenges, and strategic decisions that made it a great success. Ultimately, the undeniable surge in sales serves as the ultimate testament to the campaign's triumph.
How do you keep coming up with new campaign ideas?
Since being founded in 1892, the Coca-Cola company grew to become one of the world’s biggest multinationals in the global soft drink industry. Developed initially as a patented medicine by pharmacist John Stith Pemberton in 1886, the carbonated drink quickly transformed into a popular beverage famed for its unique and amazingly refreshing taste.
But all of this didn’t happen overnight. The brand solidified itself through a wide variety of marketing strategies and campaigns. Some of which were so impactful, they became cultural classics.
The infectious song “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke” was first used back in 1971, with countless rearrangements appearing throughout the decades that followed. 1994 saw the first version of the “Diet Coke break” commercial, which had office women ogling a shirtless window washer, soundtracked by Etta James’ “I Just Want to Make Love to You.”
Moreover, the "Holidays are coming" campaign truly became an iconic symbol of the festive season since its launch in 1995. Signaling the arrival of Christmas, the sight of the Coca-Cola truck adorned with dazzling lights has become synonymous with the holiday season.
Year after year, the campaign's popularity has soared, continuing to evoke a sense of magic and nostalgia, making it one of the most cherished and enduring marketing campaigns of all time.
Fun fact: Coca-Cola is sometimes credited for creating the appearance of Santa Claus. Although depictions of him in a red suit already existed prior to the company, Coca-Cola’s ads definitely played a role in shaping the modern image he is known for today.
So how do they just keep coming up with fantastic ideas? Well, a billion-dollar company can afford to employ only the top-tier in-house creative talents of the world, collaborating with a pool of different advertising agencies that all come up with fresh, new ideas.
Another important factor is understanding the importance of localized campaigns. While Coca-Cola is a global brand, they tailor their messaging, visuals, and even product offerings to suit the specific cultural nuances and preferences of different regions. All of which is based on years of extensive consumer research, of course.
As for the “Share a Coke” campaign, the concept was developed as part of an Australian localized campaign by Marketing Director Lucie Austin and creative excellence lead Jeremy Rudge in Coca-Cola’s Sydney office in 2011.
How do you transform a known product into a personal experience?
In an environment where consumers respond well to customization and personalization, the initial challenge for Coca-Cola was to find a way to transform its beloved product into a personal experience.
The big idea: giving consumers more than just a refreshing drink. Instead of the famous Coca-Cola logo, you get a Coke with your name on it! When Lucie and Jeremy were presented with a wall of stacked cans with different names on them, they knew they were on the right track.
For the campaign to succeed, Coca-Cola needed to create a genuine connection with its audience. Extensive market research identified the most popular names in different regions, ensuring that consumers could find bottles with names they could relate to.
In the summer of 2012, without any ads or announcements, they simply stocked vendors and supermarkets with personalized bottles to see if the campaign would go viral organically.
Five months and 10,000+ social media mentions later, the #ShareaCoke hashtag was trending, and Coca-Cola launched its ads asking the public who they would love to share a Coke with. This generated even more engagement, as well as the next batches of names and words to be printed.
However, while the idea of printing individual names on Coke bottles seems simple in theory, it presented enormous logistical challenges. Even more so when the campaign was rolled out globally in 70 different countries throughout 2013 and 2014.
How do you produce personalized bottles on a massive scale?
Launching a global campaign with personalized packaging required Coca-Cola to navigate cultural sensitivities and potential controversies. Some countries had strict regulations regarding personalized packaging, while others had cultural nuances that needed careful consideration.
The company worked closely with local teams and experts to ensure that the campaign resonated positively across diverse markets. Creating a database of thousands of names and words, and reviewing them for approval, took a lot of time.
As many as 150 submissions were sent for marketing approvals, as well as a whopping 225 trademark searches.
But that’s not all. Producing personalized bottles and cans on such a massive scale was also a logistical hurdle. Coca-Cola had to adapt its manufacturing processes, reconfigure production lines, and employ cutting-edge printing technology. For example, it took 4 weeks just to find the machine that could print the names on the cans.
Finally, with all the apt systems and technology in place, they were able to take the campaign to the next level: Share a Coke on Tour! In select cities in the world, printing stations were positioned where people could personalize and print their labels on a bottle or can themselves.
How do you touch hearts across the globe?
Despite the challenges, the "Share a Coke" campaign surpassed all expectations, generating an overwhelming response from consumers worldwide, and winning many advertising awards.
Coca-Cola experienced a significant surge in sales during the campaign period, with a reported 7% increase in volume sales in Australia, and a 2% increase globally.
The campaign's success was not limited to immediate sales, as it also strengthened brand loyalty and heightened customer engagement. Coca-Cola’s social media accounts were boosted with more than 18 million impressions, increasing their Facebook traffic by 870% and page likes by 39%.
Many of the posts shared by customers on social media reflected the emotional appeal of the campaign, sharing special moments of love and friendship as well as countless selfies with personalized bottles.
Coca-Cola's "Share a Coke" campaign exemplifies the power of innovation and strategic marketing. By embracing the challenges and hurdles behind the scenes, Coca-Cola transformed the way people perceive a simple beverage, turning it into a personal experience.
Overcoming production complexities, engaging the audience authentically, and navigating cultural sensitivities were instrumental in creating a global success story.
The remarkable increase in sales during the campaign is a testament to the impact and effectiveness of "Share a Coke." It has not only left an indelible mark on the company's history but also set a new benchmark for personalized marketing campaigns in the industry.