3 Dec 2012

Coke expands strategy to corporate storytelling

In 2011 Coca-Cola began to spruik a new approach to marketing. Gone was the corporation's focus on 'Creative Excellence' in its place was a new strategy of 'Content Excellence'. Coke was shifting its attention from the 30-second TV ad to embrace the content revolution on a global scale. 

Fast forward to November 2012 and Coca-Cola has embarked on its most ambitious digital project ever, relaunching its corporate website as an interactive digital magazine as it continues to pursue Content Excellence.  

Coke has replaced its corporate website with Coca-Cola Journey, an interactive digital magazine featuring a range of stories from company news through to universally important topics and social causes. It also includes original content alongside curated content and social media feeds in a bid to spark conversation and engage people with the brand’s corporate side. 

The launch marks a significant leap forward for the brand, as it shifts into corporate storytelling to share the Coca-Cola story with the world in a creative way. 

Coca-Cola believe the site is “the most ambitious digital project Coca-Cola has ever undertaken”. Clyde Tuggle, Senior Vice President, Chief Public Affairs and Communications Officer at The Coca-Cola Company, said:  “We are doubling-down on our commitment to be a quality publisher of compelling content.  We hope Coca-Cola Journey will be a place where people will share their curiosity about the world, engage in stimulating debate, and find out what is at the core of Coke – our quality brands, our business, our people, and our ever-expanding commitment to social good.”

The site looks and feels like a magazine site, with content grouped into themes such as Brands, Business, Community, Entertainment, Environment, Health, History, Innovation and Sports, readers can also navigate by content type: Stories, Opinions, Brands, Videos and Blogs.

The launch issue features a cover story on Coke’s commitment to supporting schools in India, Coke CEO Muhtar Kent’s ‘Five Keys to Innovation’, an interview with NASCAR driver Danica Patrick and more than 70 other additional original pieces of content.

Ashley Brown, Director of Digital Communications and Social Media, said: “We designed Coca-Cola Journey to be a sharp departure from how companies use their corporate websites. Our corporate site is our most trafficked online property, so we wanted to create an experience that would make this incredibly valuable digital real estate work harder for us.”

The Coke corporate site receives 1.2 million unique visitors each month, to view the sites corporate content such as press releases, investor information and company reports – all of which will remain on the site, but be packaged in a more consumer friendly way. 

“We want to make sure that as our brand becomes a publisher, we do so in the most beautiful and functional way possible,” said Brown. 

  • Review 

The content is being created by journalists and writers, these are people who are trained in giving news and corporations a human face and a genuine story. 

This strategy enables Coke to present their stories, in the manner they see fit and they can control the message while also appearing transparent. 

'Coca-Cola Journey' is the latest move by the corporation to bring its Content Excellence strategy to life. Coke has shifted away from the 30-second TV ad as it pays more attention to digital channels, social media and most crucially to content and storytelling. 

While the company’s mission statement remains the same: To refresh the world; To inspire moments of optimism and happiness and; To create value and make a difference, the way they plan to achieve this has changed significantly. 

Last year Coke unveiled its plans to “transform one-way storytelling into dynamic storytelling hoping to add value and significance to people’s lives”. The aim is to create compelling content that is enlightening and engaging to consumers. 

The man tasked with this ambitious challenge, Jonathan Mildenhall Vice-President, Global Advertising Strategy and Creative Excellence at Coke, believes “every contact point with a customer should tell an emotional story”. 

According to Coke, the purpose of content excellence is to create “Ideas” so contagious that they cannot be controlled, this is what is called “liquid content”. These ideas are so innately linked to Coke’s business objectives, brands and consumer interests, that Coke refers to this as linked. The aim is to tell these brand stories and to start conversations and then react and respond to these.  

Coke calls this ‘Dynamic storytelling’ which it defines as “the development of incremental elements of a brand idea that get dispersed systematically across multiple channels of conversation for the purposes of creating a unified and coordinated brand experience. 

This has been clearly evident in Coke’s “Open Happiness” campaign, which has manifested in a slew of online content from activations in different markets around the world. (see videos) The journey website is the natural progression of this strategy as Coke turns its corporate profile into a storyteller, Coke believes that storytelling is at the heart of everything the company does, therefore it was only a matter of time before Coke evolved the corporate story to make it more consumer friendly.  

In the post GFC world consumers expect brands to be more open, more transparent and more responsible. Consumers are savvier than ever and they can see through advertising and spin, brands need to put their money where there mouth is, and prove themselves worthy of consumers time. 

So for Coke, the strategy here is making the corporation likeable, and most importantly making them seem human.  By shifting the focus from staid corporate information to content creation, curation and a smart PR strategy, Coca-Cola can engage directly with their audience. All the while giving Coke a human face and presence. By its very nature this approach brings Coke’s people to the surface by providing a voice and a channel to use it. 

Coke believes its ability to develop deeper conversations with consumers through its storytelling is key to its business success and through this level of engagement, Coke believes it can achieve its ultimate aim to double the size of its business.  

Coke’s ‘Content Excellence’ strategy is clearly a case study in transmedia strategy in action, by its very nature it lives and breathes through different channels, with different elements of the Coke story unfolding across different mediums, channels and markets. 

Coke prides itself on being at the forefront of innovation and its shift to storytelling is ahead of the curve and smart. Coke is engaging with consumers on a personal level, sharing its stories in authentic and human ways and looking to reap the benefits. It's not necessarily a unique idea, brands such as Red Bull, American Express and Intel have already put elements of this strategy into practice.

However Coke's size and weight in the market (Coke is completely mainstream versus the niche of Red Bull), and its all encompassing business-wide approach makes it a major move for the company and the broader industry. The rule goes, what Coke does others will surely follow.  

  • Verdict

The digital magazine on its own is interesting but as part of Coke's broader strategic shift towards brand entertainment and storytelling it becomes very interesting. Coke has adopted a smart and innovative strategy which is driving the creation of  transmedia ideas. It will be fascinating to watch this evolve.




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