In 2019, the general state of play of social media for FMCG brands has transformed from its product-focused beginnings to a more content-driven approach.
As social media has evolved and matured, consumers’ thirst and expectation for original, authentic content have increased exponentially… and the world’s biggest brands are not excused.
Coca-Cola is one such brand that has managed to navigate its way through this age of social media enlightenment within FMCG.
Coca-Cola has used various tactics to ensure it has maintained a healthy presence on social media and in this piece, I’m going to look at three ways it keeps itself front of mind for consumers.
Consumers as creatives (UGC)
Coke launched #RefreshtheFeed in November 2018, by giving its social media accounts a complete factory reset.
— Coca-Cola (@CocaCola) November 13, 2018
The revamp marked the launch of the brand’s new social strategy “rooted in optimism, uplift and connection.” and was conceived to celebrate World Kindness Day (observed annually on November 13th).
Coca-Cola went dark on its Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts on November 12th, only to re-emerge on World Kindness Day 2018; sharing nearly 100 original images, with help from four popular street artists who embrace the brand’s core values.
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We’re partnering with artists from all over to learn more about what #KindnessStartsWith. “Being empathetic is the knowledge that we all are imperfect human-beings… and sometimes we need someone to remind us we’re not alone. Kindness is taking that empathetic knowledge and acting on it.’” — @jacquelinewhitney_, writer #WorldKindnessDay
Following on from its success in 2018, Coca-Cola ran a similar organic social campaign for World Kindness Day 2019, called #KindnessStartsWith.
The brand partnered with artists on Instagram to create original Coke-inspired images, all responding to kindness.
Coca-Cola tagged the artists where possible, conveying a feeling of community and harking back to the campaign’s original purpose of prioritising optimism, uplift and connection on social.
Another campaign using similar tactics, but engaging consumers rather than artists, was the brand’s Share a Coke campaign, which involved Coca-Cola replacing the logo on the bottles of its Coke products with popular names.
In early 2013 Coca-Cola released the first 150 names in the UK. The company also sent some to celebrities and let the public find them for themselves in store, with the aim of them sharing their own personalised Coke bottle on social media.
The campaign was a social media success and within six months of its launch, Coca-Cola reported 330 million impressions on Twitter, with nearly 170,000 tweets from 160,000 fans.
— Jasmine???? (@JASMINEZENG0221) November 25, 2019
The Share a Coke campaign is always on, with Coke expanding on the number of names, expanding to different countries and experimenting with interactive packaging in the years since.
Coca-Cola worked with Stranger things to promote the third season of the popular ’80s-themed Netflix Original TV series’ with a takeover style approach to its social media – including the introduction (or reintroduction) of New Coke.
— M@xwell ✈️ NYC (@mxwllbrbnll) June 15, 2019
For those not old enough to remember (myself included), New Coke was a sweeter version of Coca-Cola with improved taste, originally rolled out in the US, in 1985, as a response to the dwindling sales of the original product.
New Coke was one of Coke’s most unsuccessful product launches, with clamour for a return to the original recipe impossible to ignore. But with Stranger Things’ third season set in the summer of 1985 both Coca-Cola and Netflix recognised the authenticity the beverage could bring to the programme (through product placement) and Coca-Cola’s online and offline promotion.
Recognising the power of nostalgia in marketing and by homing in on the fanfare and buzz surrounding Stranger Things, Coca-Cola gave its social media an ’80s makeover through Stranger Things-inspired posts ahead of the new season.
In addition to the organic and paid social media activity, Coca-Cola and Netflix teamed up for some experiential marketing by launching a Stranger Things-themed pop-up arcade in London, presenting an opportunity for fans to feel apart of the launch and create some additional UGC (user-generated content) for Coca-Cola.
After an incredible ending to season 3 of @Stranger_Things @NetflixUK, I attended the brilliant @CocaCola #StrangerThingsArcade #CocaCola #PopUp #London Great to play some #classic #games, find the #UpsideDown and love the limited edition coke cans and palace arcade themed shirt! pic.twitter.com/5CTf4M7Dlz
— Brad Miller (@BradBMiller1) July 12, 2019
Stranger Things fans were transported back to Hawkins (the fictional setting for show) to experience its famous arcade and play original video games featured in the series.
In addition to the earned and owned social media coverage, the campaign was successful financially too. Coke beat its second-quarter earnings estimates and boosted its full-year 2019 revenue forecast, with some of that success attributed to the Stranger Things takeover.
This multi-pronged approach is like other takeovers the company has rolled out in the past. Take #ThatsGold, for example.
To celebrate the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, Coca Cola Brazil launched the #ThatsGold campaign, which was designed to celebrate the feeling that comes with accomplishing something great.
— Alli Simpson (@allisimpson) April 12, 2016
Coke used experiential marketing for #ThatsGold, with the Olympic Park in Rio hosting Coca–Cola’s dedicated space.
Anyone visiting the activation could have their photos taken with Coca-Cola props, merchandise and memorabilia, with the resulting photos creating some great UGC for the company.
Notably, Coca-Cola also took advantage of new features on Facebook, Messenger and Instagram Stories by allowing visitors to its ‘Gold Room’ to create 360-degree images of themselves to share on the social media platforms. In addition, influencers were encouraged to share content on (the then new) Instagram Stories.
Can anyone else hear bells in the distance? ????????It's not really Christmas until you see the iconic truck on your TV, and tonight might just be the night. Let us know in the comments when you spot it! #HolidaysAreComing ????????
Posted by Coca-Cola on Friday, 22 November 2019
Kris Robben’s, Marketing Director at Coca-Cola Great Britain and Ireland, commented: “This year, we’ve taken the iconic and much-loved campaign and made it the biggest yet by bringing back the elements people love and adding new partnerships, activity and special moments to bring it to life in even more ways that we hope our existing fans and new ones will love.”
Coke arguably has the most famous Christmas TV ad of all-time, with its ‘Holidays are Coming’ advert from 1995 and, much like with the Stranger Things campaign, it harnesses the power of nostalgia by recreating the original ad.
Coca-Cola will be sending its famous truck on a tour to visit several UK Towns and Cities for Christmassy pop-ups, where consumers will be able to sample its limited-edition Coca-Cola zero sugar Cinnamon.
— Haydn Dunn (@HaydnDunn) November 24, 2019
Coca-Cola also partnered with homeless charity Crisis, with 10p donated for every Coke zero sugar Cinammon can sampled and recycled, throughout the truck tour.
In addition to the ad and tour, Coke has worked with SnapChat to create its own ‘Coca-Cola Christmas lens’ and worked with Waze to give drivers using the navigation app a Santa Claus voice assistant option.
For big FMCGs, approaches to social have morphed from being heavily product-based to more nuanced and varied and Coca-Cola has recognised this shift towards content and experiences to push its brand in a less celebrity-led approach than its major competitor, Pepsi.
Coca-Cola employs a successful combination of enabling its consumers to produce original user-generated content, tactically working on takeover-style activations, and capitalising on emotions such as nostalgia.
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