Last June Coca-Cola launched their “Share a Coke” campaign in the U.S. with tremendous success, achieving a 2% increase in soft-drink sales, increasing Coke consumption from 1.7 to 1.9 billion servings per day, and making #shareacoke a No. 1 global trending topic on social media.

The integrated marketing campaign encouraged consumers to not only purchase Coke, Diet Coke and Coke Zero bottles and cans personalized with their name on it but to also share beverages with the names of friends and family members on them.

As Lucie Austin, a Coca-Cola brand executive and key player during the initial launch of the “Share a Coke” campaign in Australia in 2011, told Adweek, “We gave consumers an opportunity to express themselves through a bottle of Coke, and to share the experience with someone else.” She added, “The campaign capitalized on the global trend of self-expression and sharing, but in an emotional way.”

If you missed the chance to snatch up your personalized bottle of Coke last summer, you’re in luck; “Share a Coke” 2.0 is here! Cans have already hit the shelves, labeled with 1,000 of the most popular names in America, which is four times as many names that were available in stores last year. Evan Holod, Coke’s senior brand manager, said, “The campaign’s spirit of generosity shined through, and everything we’re doing this year is inspired by that learning.”

With the marketing efforts for the “Share a Coke” campaign officially launching last week, we wanted to reinforce three very important marketing concepts for businesses to adhere to as exemplified by one of the most iconic brands in the world.

What Marketers Can Learn from Coca-Cola’s “Share a Coke” Campaign Success

1. Research Your Target Market

Every great marketing campaign starts with research. Before you can execute a creative idea, you must know exactly who it is you want to reach and have a deep and insightful understanding of your target. From the very beginning, Coca-Cola set out to use the “Share a Coke” campaign as a way to connect and engage with teens and millennials. As Austin said, “Our research showed that while teens and young adults loved that Coca-Cola was big and iconic, many felt we were not talking to them at eye level.” Jeremy Rudge, the creative excellence lead, acknowledged that through previous campaigns, the company had successfully established why consumers love Coca-Cola, but unfortunately it wasn’t persuading them to buy more of the product. They were in need of an unpredictable strategy.

Without this key piece of research, Coca-Cola could have wasted millions of advertising dollars on a campaign that didn’t communicate directly with their target audience. Conducting primary and secondary research on your target audience prior to coming up with the creative concept for your marketing campaigns is a definite must. In other words, don’t let a creative idea drive who you’re going to reach with a marketing message; do allow insights gained about your audience to drive your creative execution.

Research your Target Audience

Conducting focus groups is a great research method for learning more about your target audience.

Research was also involved in determining which names to include on the bottles available in stores for the “Share a Coke” campaign. They calculated that using 150 names for the original launch of the campaign in Australia would allow them to reach 42 percent of the population. This statistic factored into the overall aim of the campaign; to broaden the appeal of the bottles despite their limited population reach, Rudge said “we purposefully made the invitation more about giving a Coke to someone else rather than keeping it to yourself.” Once again we see researching your target market as an integral step in creating a successful marketing campaign.

2. Connect with Your Audience on a Personable Level

As Incitrio, a global branding and creative agency located in California, said, “Coke banked on the idea that people find personalization downright irresistible.” Figuring out a way to get on an eye-to-eye level with your audience and finding creative messaging executions that resonate with them in a persobable way is key to succeeding in the marketing world today. Consumers are surrounded by so much advertising clutter that it’s impossible for every single message brands throw in our face to even be acknowledged. To stand out and grab consumer’s attention, you’ve got to make them feel important as an individual and talk to them in a tailored way.

Get on eye level with your audience

Get on eye level with your audience.

Nowadays, brands are expected to use digital technologies to connect with consumers and weave their way into our personal lives. But using communication platforms like social media requires companies to look beyond the text and pictures on a screen and center on the people creating them. Interbrand, a corporate identity and brand consulting company, calls this the Age of You. “Brands that seek to lead in the Age of You will have to recognize the human in the data, uncover genuine insights, and create a truly personalized and curated experience.”

This was Coca-Cola’s aim from the beginning and no doubt a strategic factor that played into the campaign’s astounding success. Rudge explained how they even named the font used on the “Share a Coke” bottles spelling out the names “You” because the campaign is truly “about you.”

3. Let Consumers Drive Your Success

A third lesson marketers can learn from Coca-Cola’s “Share a Coke” campaign and put into practice is derived from the growing power and influence consumers have on brands, much of which stems from social media. Coca-Cola encouraged consumers to spread the word about the campaign on social media using the #shareacoke hashtag and the results were phenomenal.

  • More than 500,000 photos were shared using the #shareacoke hashtag.
  • Consumers created and shared more than 6 million virtual Coke bottles by September 2014.
  • Coca-Cola gained 25 million Facebook followers as a result of the campaign.

But just telling people to use a hashtag to promote your brand isn’t enough; you have to give consumers a compelling reason to talk about your brand with their online communities. This point connects back to incorporating personally relatable content into your marketing efforts.

The big idea here is to work smarter, not harder. According to a chart created by Simply Measured, Coca-Cola shared content on their company Instagram account fewer than 50 times over four months of the campaign. Meanwhile, consumers were engaging with the brand by the thousands every month. By heavily relying on consumers to spread the campaign around, Coca-Cola was able to successfully reach members of their target market they couldn’t have reached without friends sharing messages with their own networks.

Share a Coke Instagram

Image from Simply Measured.

Of course, giving consumers control of your brand image on social media requires a little bit of a risk, but once you’ve established your brand as a trustworthy company with a human heart and acquired a loyal following, the less you have to worry about your customers stabbing you in the back.

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