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Festival of Media 2009: Replace the brand with consumer at the core – Maarten Albarda

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Festival of Media 2009: Replace the brand with consumer at the core – Maarten Albarda

Maarten L Albarda, Director, Media & Communication Innovation, The Coca Cola Company, took on the Herculean task of explaining the way in which The Coca Cola Company viewed Integrated Marketing Communication and how it helped in building brand portfolios. Albarda condensed a two-day workshop in a 15 minute presentation and also took time out to take the audience through some of his ‘pet peeves’.

Following the first Coca Cola brand campaign that was launched in 1963, the cola major has been working on a 360 approach to marketing communication with the brand at the middle of the conversation. However, come 2005 and the company realised that it had missed something in the market, and undertook steps that meant steep changes.

Albarda explained that the overall situation impacted the way in which The Coca Cola Company changed the way in which it approached marketing communication, and the objective was to create a whole portfolio of valuable brands. The market environment saw clutter in all categories and the competition had increased from within a particular category to a broader area. He said, “Anyone who had 99 cents to spend and could have spent it on anything was the target, and the competition then is a very wide range.”

That was the time when The Coca Cola Company put down a marketing DNA so that all its partners understood the same thing from the brief. He said, “It was meeting of the right with the left, and there was magic happening in the middle. We had never done this before and the reason to do this was because we found that amongst all our partners, we were saying exactly the same thing, but calling it different names – so we defined Integrated Marketing Communication.”

The move for The Coca Cola Company was from 360-degree activation to Integrated Marketing Communication and the key difference was that the company had taken out the brand from the centre and had instead put the consumer. Albarda said, “You will make the right choices when you do that, and then from there, you have to just ensure that you make it all work together.”

Albarda also spoke on cola major’s “connection planning” that were consumer centric and hence, media neutral. The content, contact and context – all three have to be considered while connection planning and these plans have to be continuously reviewed and revised. He reiterated that connection planning was different from media planning since it was guided by the Integrated Marketing Communication, which affected how The Coca Cola Company worked with agencies.

He also said that Coca Cola, too, was not cutting down on ad spends even though the cola major was chasing pennies down the halls. Some of the pet peeves that Albarda mentioned that, according to him, agencies should avoid, were working versus non-working budgets; the ‘yes we can’ mentality of the media agencies, where they promised the client anything that the client asked for; confusing Integrated Marketing Communication with 360 degree; traditional versus non-traditional media conversations; hard versus soft saving – for him, there is no such thing as soft saving, it was only value added investments; the ‘let’s do digital’ and interactive discussions; and finally, the taximeter fees versus paying for value and performance.


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