Coca-Cola’s "Ahh" Moment with Teens

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.

Marketing Daily – “Coke Targets Teens with Its First All-Digital Effort”

Be Constructively Discontent

I am a fan of quotes- they can be inspiring, disconcerting, and challenging… all at once. Quotes are like a snack for the mind, giving a mental boost or sparking thought that can lead to personal growth. One such quote caught my eye this week, and it came from an unlikely source. In a press release discussing financial performance in the most recent quarter, a company’s CEO said that despite a strong quarter and year-to-date performance that his company is “constructively discontent and resolutely focused on our future…”

What a challenging way to manage a business! The thought of being constructively discontent has gripped me ever since. The quote struck a nerve with me as I have always approached teaching with a similar mindset. The prospect of becoming outdated and stale is disturbing enough that I challenge myself regularly to become a better teacher and scholar. Complacency is the enemy; if you are not growing you are dying.

Who said his company was constructively discontent? It was Muhtar Kent, Chairman and CEO of Coca-Cola. What makes his remarks interesting is the company had a good quarter by all accounts – international sales volume up 5%, net revenue up 45%, and operating income up 17%. These figures coupled with the brand stature of Coca-Cola would make it a prime candidate for complacency, but that is not the case. The company has a long-range plan called 2020 Vision that outlines goals to pursue between now and 2020, a strategy that falls in line with being constructively discontent.

It is easy to be discontent; it can also be destructive. But, when constructive discontent is encouraged, discontent with status quo and exploring avenues for growth keeps an organization and its employees hungry to accomplish more. However, adopting a mindset of being constructively discontent must be a conscious choice- you have to work at it. Don’t settle – I refuse to accept self-imposed limitations – and I hope you will join me in being constructively discontent.

What’s Behind Costco’s Power Struggle with Coca-Cola?

Costco finds itself embroiled in a pricing dispute with Coca-Cola. Unhappy with pricing the beverage giant is giving the warehouse club chain, Costco has responded by not restocking Coke products on its shelves. The company has taken its dispute public, saying “At this time, Coca-Cola has not provided Costco with competitive pricing so that we may pass along the value our members deserve.”

What is Costco up to by publicly calling out Coca-Cola on its unwillingness to negotiate more favorable prices? This move would seem to allow Costco to score points with consumers. After all, all customers want lower prices for products. Costco is portraying itself as champion for its customers, doing battle with a corporate giant like Coca-Cola. Beyond gaining favorable publicity for calling for better pricing from a supplier, there may be little benefit of such a move long-term.

Costco may have picked the wrong brand to battle. Coca-Cola is a high equity brand. It has more leverage in the marketplace than Costco. Customers who are unable to buy Coke products at Costco will likely make their purchases at another store. How does that help Costco? Coca-Cola has profit responsibilities to its stakeholders, and it is resisting efforts by one of its customers to alter its business strategy. Manufacturers have been pushed around a great deal by retailers in recent years. It will be interesting to see how, or if, Coca-Cola pushes back in its feud with Costco. – “Costco Nixes Coke Products Over Pricing Dispute”