I’d Like to Buy the World a (Brand Like) Coca-Cola

Did you know that happiness could be bottled and sold all over the world?  If not, then it would seem Coca-Cola’s message has been lost on you.  Since 1886, the company has been focused on delivering happiness.  Though their slogan has changed many times over the years, the brand has always centered their message on the idea that happiness is a bottle of Coke.  Today, they’re getting right to the point with their 2012 campaign, Open Happiness.

What makes a brand like Coca-Cola so successful?  What tactics are they using that can be applied to your business?  Today, we’re going to take a quick look at these questions, digging into what makes this brand work so efficiently.

Building a Brand with First-Class Leadership

While it takes an incredible amount of vision to effectively develop a brand, that vision is nothing without the execution that only comes from great leaders.  Branding for business (or individuals) requires leaders, and Coca-Cola has plenty of them.

In 2007, Joseph Tripodi joined Coca-Cola as the company’s Chief Marketing Officer.  As one of the most influential leaders in the company, Tripodi has done tremendous work in directing the company’s engagement tactics.  For Tripodi, customer engagement is essential for building a brand.

In a 2011 article written for the Harvard Business Review, Tripodi explains how Coca-Cola is no longer just tracking “consumer impressions,” but also focusing on “consumer expressions.”  For Coca-Cola, the focus is moving from what customers think to how they react.  He makes a great point in the article: “Assume that you don’t own your brands; your consumers do.”  Tripodi and the leaders behind the Coca-Cola brand acknowledge that talking to customers instead of dialoging with customers is problematic.  Customers define the brand; hear what they have to say.  (See my fourth point on this recent blog post.)

And, remember, branding for business doesn’t require a budget like Coca-Cola’s.  The most recent figures on advertising expenses that Coca-Cola has released are from 2006, showing $2.6 billion spent on advertising (up from $1 billion in 1993, the earliest year with official figures).  However, having conversations that generate interest in your brand doesn’t have to cost you that much!  Blogs and social media only cost your time.

Coca-Cola Focuses on Uniformity

One of the most effective business tactics Coca-Cola employs is the uniformity of customer experience.  A brand’s success is contingent upon customers’ ability to know it when they see it.  The Coca-Cola Company has over 500 brands in more than 200 countries, but no matter where you are in the world, you know if you’re looking at a Coca-Cola product.

The iconic red and white logo is recognized by 94% of the world’s population.  How’s your brand doing?  While the company has a great product, over 125 years of business experience, and billions of dollars to work with, uniformity of that magnitude doesn’t just happen.

Offering customers a trusted product that is reliable time after time is one of the most effective business tactics any company can employ.  But remember – uniformity isn’t just about the product; it’s also about the experience.

Brands are defined by the customer’s experience, a lesson Coca-Cola has taken to heart.  For Coca-Cola, that emphasis is on “buying happiness” and nurturing a sense of community and love.  Have you seen the Coca-Cola Happiness Machine?

The Coke Style

And, of course, the Coca-Cola brand has style.  Branding for business will flop without style.  While a lot of Coca-Cola’s brand marketing is done in-house, many of the major projects are outsourced to major branding/ad agencies like Wieden + Kennedy.

While Coca-Cola knows its style, outsourcing some parts of the branding process to hugely successful agencies like Wieden + Kennedy has been a smart move.  The duo is responsible for numerous Coca-Cola marketing campaigns, most notably the Open Happiness campaign.

Most importantly, Coca-Cola remembers its roots and has successfully built the brand by delivering exactly what customers want: an experience that draws on a long heritage.  Your brand probably doesn’t have a history that goes back to 1886, but you have a history of some sort.  Coca-Cola pushes their story constantly.  Check out their recent history-based campaign, The Secret Formula.

Coca-Cola Defines Brand Loyalty

Have you ever known someone who “just ordered water” because Pepsi was the only soft drink available for dinner?  You probably didn’t even consider this behavior to be eccentric.  Why?  Coca-Cola has crafted brand loyalty that goes a step further than your typical case of brand loyalty.  (Apple users could be an exception.)

This kind of loyalty is one of the most essential business tactics for you to employ as well.  When you’re in the business of selling happiness (like Coke), you make your product indispensable.

Today, I want to encourage you to make your product indispensable in the same way.  Remember, it starts with leadership that interacts with customers.  Next, develop your brand’s uniformity and style.  And, fourthly, encourage loyalty that centers on your indispensable product.

What else do you see Coca-Cola doing to develop itself as one of the world’s most compelling brands?

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Ben Richardson is a writer based in Nashville, TN. While he loves writing on a variety of subjects, he's our go-to on all things related to branding and the creative aspects of content marketing. Follow him on Twitter!

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