5 Lessons from the Share a Coke Campaign

"share a coke campaign"The results from Coca Colas’ Share a Coke campaign are compelling.

According to the WSJ Coke reversed 11 straight years of US soft drink volume declines with increases of volume of .4% for the summer of sharing and sale increases of 2.5%. Even more compelling volume and soda volume and dollar sales were negative for rivals PepsiCo and Dr. Pepper Snapple Group.

Personalization campaigns built around  consumers ordering personalized packages are not new. Heinz UK and Nutella come to mind. Coke’s campaign was quite different. Coke used an impressive multi dimensional social activation strategy to really drive retail traffic, multiple purchases, repurchases and teach the world to sing about the brand.

Although the Coke campaign had features that allowed consumers to personalize individuals cans or virtual bottles of Coke- a 500 stop, cross country traveling tour of kiosks and a website to create and email virtual bottles, these were features of a much larger “seeded” name personalization concept that sent consumers off to retail locations in search of Coke packaging that could have their names already on it. This creating a more powerful than actually drove excitement and retail traffic, aka the often elusive positive ROI metric.  Let’s take a look.

The Share a Coke Campaign

Coke replaced the logos on 20 oz bottles of Coke, Diet Coke and Zero with 250 of the most popular first names in the US. Smaller bottles and cans replaced the Coke logo with designations such as  “friends,” “family,” “BFF”, “Bestie”, “Grillmaster” and “Wingman”. This “seeding” of popular names and nicknames on cans and bottles sent consumers on a search and share mission that built excitement, engagement and moved cases. Interactive media showcased the available names, both sending consumers in droves off to retail stores to purchase Cokes with their own names but also Cokes with names of their friends; to share the Cokes and then post the experience online to share with multiple others.

As Jennifer Healen, Coke’s group director of integrated marketing content and design noted,Share a Coke is designed to get people talking and sharing….see{ing} that the iconic Coca-Cola logo has been replaced by their name or their friends’ names, they can’t help but take a picture and post it online.” And share and post they did: 500,000 photos on Instagram alone. And not only were consumers posting their photos, Coke “amplified and curated” the user generated content across their social profiles, encouraging even more sharing and content creation.

Importantly, Share a Coke was also designed to drive retail traffic and thus sales. See below as Coke’s media teases consumers with the names on the bottles and then in the next spot sends them off to find and purchase multiple names and multiple bottles.

5 Lessons from the Share a Coke Campaign

In the end, Coke’s Share a Coke campaign was a living breathing example of Coca Cola 2020, Liquid and Linked. The content that was created to quote Jennifer Healen, talked “not only about the names on bottles, but also put a great deal of focus on celebrating real moments of sharing and the stories behind them… highlight{ing} the best examples to encourage sharing among our fans and followers and inspire teens to recreate these sharing moments with their friends.” And of course, the brand was an integral part of the moments and stories.  But, its success was so much more, the reversal of an 11 year volume decline.  Here’s what we can learn:

1.  Social objects drive social sharing.  Coke took peoples’ names and put them on bottles and made these named bottles social objects, nodes in a social conversation that grew and grew and provided reasons for people to talk to each other, creating moments and stories to share.  For more on social objects see Hugh MacLeod here and here. Coke has been trying to connect with millennials with their “share happiness” campaign and  to move away from being a brand that promotes happiness to one that provokes happiness. The bottles with the names are a social object to provoke happiness and connect Coke in sharable social conversations.  Think social object when you create your social strategy; an object that can start the conversation.

2. The goal of marketing is to drive sales. For Coke this meant retail sales. This campaign designed for intent; to get people to go to retail stores looking for bottles of Coke with names on them and to buy them and to share them with each other. And then to share the image, the experience, and/or the story online to be shared which encourage others to go to the store and do the same over and over again. I can’t think of another integrated marketing campaign that fired from all cylinders so well to accomplish this goal.

3. Provide multiple tools and vehicles for sharing and product purchase.  The main focus of the Share a Coke campaign were the 250 most popular names and the “generics” such as “BFF”, “Bestie” and “Wingman”. However, Coke provided other ways to participate in Share a Coke: a website to design a virtual can to share on social networks including sharing a virtual can and a song on Spotify, a way to Tweet a $5 Coca Cole eGiftcard, the 500 city tour kiosks for customizing cans, using the hashtag #shareacoke to share content on social networks that Coke might feature on billboards around the country, and using QR codes that people could scan to send coupons for Coke to friends’ email addresses.

4. Monitor online content for opportunities to do something extraordinary that reinforces your brand’s strategy and gives consumers something else to talk about and share. Long sentence, but in a few words, a youth pastor named Patrick McGillicuddy grabbed a random Diet Coke from his refrigerator with the name “Dad” on it. Ironically, he and his wife had recently found out that they were expecting. They decided to create a video to announce the news to friends and families and incorporated the “Dad” can into the video and posted it to YouTube. The video went viral with 1mm views. Coke noticed and sent a congratulatory Tweet to the McGillicuddys.  And then sent the couple a year’s supply of Diet Coke with 250 0f the most popular names as inspiration for choosing a name for their unborn child.

5. Yes, you can measure social media ROI but only as long as your social media is part of a strategy with measurable business goals and identifiable costs.  Adweek recently highlighted the number of Coke’s Facebook Likes, Twitter followers and Instagram followers in an article titled, “How Coke Went Beyond Ingenious Packaging to Boost Sales.”  Well,  likes and followers don’t “boost sales”.  For the Share a Coke campaign, metrics such as the number of Instagram posts (500k+) using the hashtag #shareacoke are relevant, but for ROI the amount Coke spent on Instagram is the important number. Shares, engagement, tweets and retweets are all outcomes of a social strategy. A social strategy should be part of your marketing strategy that costs a certain amount of dollars and can quantify what you mean by “boost sales” which ultimately will provide a positive or negative ROI. That’s it, as far as measuring ROI goes.

Author: Marianne Richmond

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