Effectiveness & Engagement will lead to Investment: Coca-Cola on Digital

 Innovation and creativity guide Coca Cola’s digital campaigns, be it the ‘Shadow’ commercial or ‘embedding’ reporters with IPL teams. As Coke’s digital spends increase progressively, Wasim Basir, Director – IMC, Coca Cola India, highlights some of the company’s digital initiatives.

e4m by Gopal Sathe
Updated: May 17, 2011 9:39 AM
Effectiveness & Engagement will lead to Investment: Coca-Cola on Digital

Digital marketing spend is growing at a rate of 35 per cent as compared to 20 per cent for television, but while print’s share of advertising is expected to drop from 42.3 per cent to 40 per cent in 2011, the total spends on digital remain a fraction of total ad spends, approximately Rs 1,000 crore as compared to print and television, both of which are around Rs 10,000 crore (Source: Pitch-Madison Media Advertising Outlook 2011).

Help Clients Understand Digital: Coca-Cola to Agencies
According to Wasim Basir, Director, Integrated Marketing Communications, Coca Cola India, agencies needed to aggressively help clients understand digital. At present, Coca-Cola works with Sapient-Nitro, IRIS Worldwide and Interactive Universal for its digital communication.

One concern on digital is that online advertising had been defined as a performance medium for too long, and this was reducing the value of the medium, whose power lies in engagement. Basir observed, “For the first time you have a medium, which allows excellent two-way communication, and agencies need to show advertisers how they can use it to engage with people, and create loyalty.” According to him, “It’s time to move away from Click-Through-Ratios, and other metrics like Cost-Per-Click or Cost-Per-Action which we are using today. We need better ways of measuring engagement, because today, digital is a two-way medium, but we’re only doing a one-way measurement.”

Ramswaroop Gopalan, Country Manager, SapientNitro, which recently created a Twitter campaign for Sprite, said, “Coca Cola has always been voracious about digital, and they have been willing to put money behind it.”

Digital for Cola and Non-Cola Brands
According to Basir, the company was looking at various tools across brands. “We have not limited the option of exploring the digital media space only for cola brands. The decision to choose a particular medium of reaching out to the target audience depends on the core creative idea of the brand and its communication objective. We do not follow a fixed marketing or communication strategy for all our brands. Each brand has a distinct identity and specific attributes, based on which, we customise the communication strategy for the brand,” he said.

Coca-Cola India is amongst the few companies that have followed the global trend of investing significantly in the digital medium. Industry sources explained that Coca-Cola was seeing a substantial rise in its digital budgets, year-on-year.

While Basir clarified that for strategic reasons, the company could not comment on the budget allocated specifically for the digital media space, he added, “What we can share is that we will invest ahead of curve on this very important medium, as we understand its effectiveness and engagement potential, especially amongst our core target. Our marketing spends have always been in sync with the core creative ideas, communication messages and the target audiences for each of our brands. This year too, we continue to spend accordingly on brand communication, merchandising, on ground events, retail premise activation and digital marketing amongst the others. With the rising popularity and the expanding user-base, digital media is definitely an important constituent of our marketing mix and spends are progressively going up.”

Putting Internet before TV
Coca-Cola’s experiments with the medium were also seen when the ‘Shadow’ ads broke on digital platforms ahead of the television release. But why put TV on the Internet? Basir explained that each medium had unique opportunities, and as marketers, one needed to be able to make the most of each of these. He admitted that just launching a commercial on YouTube wasn’t making the most of the medium, and added, “For that campaign, we activated SMS updates, a WAP site, and Bluetooth sharing of content. All this fed into the video online, and there were around 500,000 interactions in 10 days before the launch of the TVC. We created buzz for the commercial before it ever went on TV.”

Interestingly, there were no freebies in the campaign. Coca-Cola provided people with no incentive and didn’t blast their communication at people. Instead, they created multiple touch-points around mobile and the Internet, and the only incentive people had was to be the first to see the ad.

He added, “Likewise, the Thums Up ad this year was previewed to fans on Facebook before mass media channels. Sprite, too, has a very strong digital focus where we are leveraging Facebook and Twitter to encourage consumer participation and interaction in the communication programme.”

The Sprite campaign on Twitter spread quickly and virally – and Gopalan pointed out, “Innovation isn’t always expensive. Such campaigns cost very little but build an engaged community which can then be fed back into other campaigns.”

Another viral campaign for Coca-Cola was run in colleges in Punjab, where the beverage company filmed a dispenser that would ‘magically’ give pizzas, dozens of bottles of coke when one bought a soft drink. Called ‘The Coke Happiness Machine’, the concept worked well for the company and went viral on YouTube, prompting colleges to ask Coca cola to undertake similar campaigns in their campuses. “If we were to try and be just digital or just offline, this wouldn’t work so well,” Basir said.

Coke Studio, the IPL touch
Meanwhile, Coca Cola has also tied up with MTV to create the Coke Studio, an initiative to reach out to music lovers through social media. Users can connect via Facebook or Twitter, and can go to YouTube to watch the music. The Facebook India page went live last week, and has almost 5,000 users already.

In another campaign, Coca Cola has “embedded” reporters with three IPL teams. These are ordinary fans that have been given cameras, and they will make videoblogs of the action that takes place after the game ends. Basir said, “Ordinary people want to be heard, and want to be a part of the story. It’s easy and affordable to involve the customers and make them loyal ambassadors on digital.”

Coca Cola, which is sponsoring five IPL teams this season, has also created a special portal called 'fanstation.com' for greater consumer engagement for Coke.

A report by Social Media Today suggested that in the UK at least, Coca Cola has cut television spending by 6.6 per cent globally, and allocated those funds towards social media. Sources here suggest that Coca Cola’s digital spend has reached 10-12 per cent of their total spending and continue to grow slightly ahead of the industry.

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