Sharing is not just for social media.

Shaun Holloway
Nov 20, 2016 · 4 min read
Personalized pop bottle label. Genius marketing. #ShareACoke

The Backstory

When I traveled to Cape Town, South Africa, I didn’t expect to see a little taste of home. When I arrived at a conference check-in desk in Atlanta, Georgia, I didn’t expect to receive a personalized beverage.

In reviewing the two different scenarios in Atlanta and Capetown, the global presence and sophistication of the Coca-Cola brand and marketing machine was evident, welcoming, and doing exactly what it was supposed to do… encourage sharing.

The Object

Left: Customized Coke label; Right: Coke can from South Africa 2003

Not too many brands and containers are more recognizable than the Coca-Cola bottle, with its patented shape and copyrighted logo. It’s an American and global icon.

Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A.

November 2015. I was attending a vendor-hosted conference, and after a round of handshakes and hugs, I approached the registration desk. I was given my name badge and the traditional bag of goodies.

Inside the bag was a Coke bottle… with my name on it! What?! Apparently, I was living under a rock and didn’t know this was a thing.

The vendor took the extra time and paid a few extra bucks to have a customized label made just for me.

To this day, this gesture has stuck with me, and the vendor remains a valuable partner. What a great way to welcome a customer to an event that is beyond the mass “thank you” gifts and a warm, fuzzy tchotchke. In case you’re wondering… thank you MemberSuite for being awesome.

Fun fact… I still haven’t opened the bottle. I was so moved that I immediately ordered a bunch of them for friends and family. I wanted to share the same feeling I got when seeing my name on the label. I win. Others win. Coke wins.

Capetown, South Africa

July 2003. After a 20-something-hour flight to Capetown and 2 of 4 weeks completed on a consulting trip, I was getting tired of being away from home. So, I made a special trip to a grocery store in the V&A Waterfront and was amazed at the number of recognizable brands there were to buy.

Of course what caught my eye was a strange-looking can of Coke. It was a lot taller and narrower than the typical can I was used to seeing.

At 450 milliliters, that’s almost 100 milliliters MORE than what we typically see in the United States (12 oz can = 354.882 ml). And I thought we drank a lot of pop! Of course, I couldn’t just get one for me… I had to get one for my friends too. So, here I was thousands of miles away from home, and I’m buying and drinking a Coke with my buddies.

Fun fact… I still have the can, but this one is empty. Not sure if I’ll ever get back to South Africa, but I have the memory of sharing a Coke with friends in one of the furthest places away from home.

The Lesson

It’s not too often I find myself wrangling a story related to marketing that doesn’t also involve technology. In the case of sharing, Coca-Cola finally focused on what people DO, while consuming their product.

They share. Experiences. Products.

And, just like when Lego finally understood its customers, sharing a product or experience you like with someone else has always been a thing.

The Take-aways:

  • Marketing needs to focus on the fundamentals of human behavior.
  • Technology and marketing are connected like a strand of DNA.
  • Personalization has long-tail effects — you just need to be patient.
  • Sharing life experiences with others is what makes life worth living.

Sharing a drink with a friend is nothing new. Now, we just have a hashtag to go along with it… #ShareACoke… another example of marketing technology taking advantage of another basic human characteristic.

Written by Shaun Holloway.

Lessons from Ordinary

Business and life learning from everyday objects

Shaun Holloway

Written by

Lessons from Ordinary. Business and life learning from everyday objects.

Lessons from Ordinary

Business and life learning from everyday objects

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade