What Is The Profit Of Selling Happiness

The marketing strategy of Coca-Cola

Muammer Hüseyinoğlu
Feb 19 · 6 min read

Coca-cola was first invented within an Atlanta-based pharmacy by Dr John Pemberton in May 1886. Initially sold at local soda fountain counters. Growing demand and the idea of making the beverage portable led to bottling the sparkling drink.

In its first year, Pemberton sold just nine glasses of Coca-Cola a day for five cents a glass. Since then, the company has expanded ever-so-slightly. Currently, selling its products at an estimated rate of more than 1.9 billion servings a day. That’s mean almost one in four people buying something from Coca-Cola every day.

The Coca-Cola company is one of the most recognized companies in the world. Certainly, it’s the world’s biggest drink company. They control more than half the global market in carbonated soft drinks as well as a substantial chunk of the somewhat larger non-carbonated segment.

It owns four of the world’s five biggest-selling soft drinks. With Coca-Cola being the world’s best-known and most valuable non-technology brand. Within its portfolio, the company holds more than 500 brands including Fanta, Sprite, and Relentless. Within these, they produce over three and a half thousand varied products spanning from sodas to bottled water, iced teas and coffees.

Photo: Guillaume Bolduc

An estimated 94 percent of the world’s population recognizes the red and white Coca-Cola logo. Nearly 10% of their revenue -41 billion dollars- was spent on advertising and marketing campaigns last year. These astronomical 4 billion dollars were spent on a diverse range of campaign tactics across multiple geographic regions.

As with many things in the world, ironically, the companies that are the most well recognized and possessed the highest budget for their advertising and public image. Luckily this hefty budget allows Coke to experiment and get creative with their marketing, providing the opportunity to remind us why they’re as successful as they are.

— Now, what is the Coca-Cola brand built upon?

Well, it’s this secret. Training our brains to associate the brand with a good feeling be that happiness, relaxation, friends, love, anything, rather than the soda itself that makes them good at what they do.

I’m going to go through a few examples here.

First of all, let’s have a look at the 95 Christmas advert.

Photo: Mateusz Dach

For many, it’s iconic, the arrival of holidays is coming with Coca-Cola truck. It’s a highlight of the period. Building excitement for Christmas. The ad might be 23 years old, but interest in it shows little sign of diminishing as it brings out everyone’s nostalgic side.

The focus of 2016 Christmas advert, a coke for Christmas ad follows a young boy who aims to spread the joy through giving Coca-Cola to those who are making Christmas a reality, including a dad, a shop assistant, and Santa Claus himself.

Now, the important aspect of the advert is that it targets the whole family. The ability to provide this experience for the entire family is essential. The commercial itself closely follows cokes primary principles in their advertising.

Rather than attempting to sell it drink, Coke focuses on selling an abstract positive concept such as happiness, family, and sharing. As we can see, Coca-Cola has become an expert at selling these non-concrete conceptions.

Another video published in the same year, like other ads, it remains true to the core values that they use in their marketing campaigns year-round. Along with this Coke modified their traditional formula for advertising adopting a more multi-channel approach.

Traditionally video print and physical advertising with a focal point of cokes festive commercials. However, 2 years ago, they saw the addition of coke TV and social media via hashtags and a coke emoji. This was an attempt to broaden their influential radius.

The next example we’re going to look at is called, Sharing Can. Coke’s share happiness campaign has been one of the key pillars of an advertising machine. This involved multiple previous strategies such as the coke alchemy machine and the hugely successful D-branding tactic which we’ll talk about after a few paragraphs.

However, Coca-Cola Sharing Can may have successfully created the most literal rendition of sharing a coke. The regular-looking can of a coke, can be twisted to become two mini cans, allowing probably one of the easiest methods for sharing a coke on the move.

As part of the pilot project, coke distributed its sharing can two thirsty Singaporeans and documented these surprised reactions. The documentary of this surprised happiness involved a team accompanying the distributor’s, following them to areas where they knew there’d be heavy traffic and films people’s authentic reactions.

This documentation provided coke with video evidence of the purest possible form of happiness showing how people would react and the kind of power it has.

Now finally, we got on to the branding.

Photo: Breston Kenya

As mentioned earlier, arguably the most successful share happiness campaign would be the D-branding tactic. Marketing director Lucie Austin and her team within Coca-Cola South Pacific Branch were delivered a 151-word creative brief that gave them free rein to deliver a truly disruptive idea that would make headlines and captured the country’s attention.

The resulting campaign has known internally as Project Connect based on its ambition to both strengthen the brand’s bond with Australia’s young adults, and inspire a shared moment of happiness with the real and virtual worlds.

It became known as #ShareaCoke. The primary concept behind this was the swapping out of coke branding on bottles and cans in favour of 150 of the most popular names in Australia allowing coke to reach 42% of the population.

This campaign was released and almost immediately saw a positive reaction with unaffiliated celebrities buying bottles, social media conversation, and media coverage blowing up as a result.

Within that summer coke sold more than 250 million named bottles and cans in of just under 23 million people. This overwhelming positive result led to the expansion of the campaign across the world reaching more than 70 countries.

As the campaign spread across the globe, over 17,000 names were used. Including generic nicknames and titles such as mom, dad, and mate. These additional titles purposefully made the invitation more about giving a coke to someone else rather than keeping it to yourself, broadened the appeal and played to their core principles.

The ability of such a revolutionary and notable campaign could be argued to rely solely on the ability to relate to the customer on the eye level. Lucie Austin suggests that the success derived from these of our name, the most personal thing we possess. It’s our fingerprint, our identity, in one word. It can’t get much more personal than seeing our name, our own unique identifier on a bottle of coke.

The campaign capitalized on the global trend of self-expression and sharing but it did so in an emotional way. Cokes advertising team have released its fair share of interesting campaigns. Some with more success than others, but few could be called an outright disaster with the possible exception of New Coke.

The continued pursuit of alluring and revolutionary advertising tactics by coke is sure to assist the sales of their products worldwide. As you can see, Coca-Cola has shown that by engaging with their customers and not just shouting from the rooftops about how great they are.

They’re able to grow year-on-year and build brand loyalty and brand awareness that you just don’t see in many other sectors. It’s a lesson that a lot of companies could do with learning.

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Muammer Hüseyinoğlu

Written by

Full time data scientist, part time blogger & illustrator. I empower entrepreneurs and help them achieve their goals.

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +525K people. Follow to join our community.

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