Like all brands, Coca-Cola strives to reach and engage customers in a challenging environment of first screens, second screens, and third screens. That order is particularly tall when it comes to connecting with the all-important teen market. The media consumption habits of this coveted segment of beverage consumers are different than their older siblings who came just before them and drastically different from how their parents engaged with media during their teen years.
Coca-Cola is seeking out teens through an ambitious digital marketing campaign called Ahh. The campaign is ambitious because it focuses on using digital media to reach teens. Ad agency Weiden + Kennedy created experiences- games and videos designed with mobile access in mind. In addition, Coca-Cola is turning to crowdsourcing by inviting teens to create their own Coca-Cola branded experiences, with 25 of them becoming part of the Ahh campaign. Would-be content creators are challenged to create an experience around the the theme “the ultimate in refreshment.”
There is method to the madness behind Ahh. Coca-Cola learned through research into teen consumers that the more fun, interactive, and random content is the more likely they are to engage it. Thus, a digitally-driven campaign is not just a gimmick to reach an audience segment that lives on their mobile devices. Marketing has always been about reaching people where they are- door-to-door salesmen, network television, Internet, social media, and now mobile represent a tradition of connecting through mediums that are most suitable given the audience targeted.
Not only is digital a good fit for reaching teens, but digital experiences are a good way to stimulate interaction with the Coca-Cola brand. A noticeably absent element is a strong call to action. Some marketers would ask, “Shouldn’t all marketing tactics encourage the audience to do something (preferably buy something)?” In this situation, no- Coca-Cola seeks to build bonds with teens through play and entertainment experiences. If this approach is successful, sales will follow… if Ahh can establish brand relevance among teens. Play and fun might give teens a brief entertainment experience, but if that is the extent of impact then they will quickly move on to other entertainment options.
Coca-Cola’s Ahh campaign is bold because it is a departure from the emphasis on mass media to spread brand messages. The reality is to reach teens a different kind of brand experience is needed. Inviting creation of experiences is a key piece of Ahh; the ad agency is not totally controlled messaging. Buy-in among teens can be enhanced through their involvement in content creation. Relevance increases when the audience becomes involved with the brand. I like that Coca-Cola has invited teens to create experiences as it will not only draw them into deeper brand relationships, but the audience-created experiences will help tell the Coca-Cola brand story from teens’ viewpoint.