Three lessons from a Coke napkin

A pleasant surprise from my airline experience last week: This modest little Coca-Cola cocktail napkin delivers one of the nicest, most pitch-perfect marketing messages that I’ve seen in a while. Check it out, front and back:

Coca-Cola cocktail napkin from Delta flight

Coca-Cola cocktail napkin back from Delta flight

Why is Coke’s message so smart?

Strategically: It reflects everything the Coke brand tries to stand for: friendliness to all, “real thing” authenticity, and a distinctive taste in a world of wannabes.

Tactically: It delivers the message to a captive audience that has a free sample the product right in front of it. The message is completely appropriate and relevant. It’s beautifully written and designed, and as engaging as a napkin can possibly be. The right message, to the right people, at the right time. Perfect.

Three lessons for all marketers

1. Work on your key (strategic) messages.
If you think this message was simple and easy to produce — well, Coke and their marketing partners are so good at messaging that it only seems easy. Can you state your value proposition so easily? Does your company have a consistent voice and personality? These elements are central to your effective messages. Work on them and reinforce them — now, and constantly. A week or two before your trade show, or the day before your press release is due, is way too late.

2. Anytime, anywhere your company or brand interacts with your customers, there’s a profound opportunity.
Never take “small” touchpoints for granted. How easy it would be for Coke just to put a logo on the napkin, with an inane slogan. (I don’t believe “Open Happiness” is inane in any way, shape or form, but feel free to disagree.) This is powerful messaging where you’d least expect it. What are some small touchpoints that you’ve overlooked?

3. It’s harder than it looks to maintain market leadership in a commoditized category.
Coke has a hard job compared smaller brands that talk to more focused segments. Yet Coke still hit home runs. Think about it: Red Bull and Mountain Dew have created their own sub-categories. With much more focused audiences, their job of creating relevant communication is relatively easy. (Red Bull and Mountain Dew are tremendously successful, that’s part of the lesson.) But Coke must connect with 12-year-olds as well as their great grandparents, and they do a great job.

(Coke seems to be moving from “most liked” to “beloved” with their current efforts. Contrast this to the sad state of affairs over at Pepsi — their Super Bowl commercials, in particular). If Coke can rise to this challenge, how about you — whether you’re a market leader, or a challenger?

What do you think?

Do you agree that this example from Coke is a particularly strong bit of marketing? What lessons do you take from it?

11 business reasons to try Twitter

Twitter isn’t for everyone. But maybe it’s for you, and you just don’t know it yet.

Twitter isn't for everyone, but it may be for you

Twitter inspires love and hate

It may be hard to see what value you can get from 140 characters competing in a sea of incomprehensible tweets such as “RT @SuperBlogDude, yo!” and yawners like “I’m at Denny’s.” I was just as skeptical, not that long ago.

If you’re looking for a shortcut to sales, Twitter isn’t it (though there are exceptions). But I now swear by it.

Mirroring my own experience, here’s why you may want to keep your mind open to Twitter.

1. It’s a great platform for customer service. A couple of years ago, I was ambivalent about Twitter. Then I read a case study about a company few people knew about. Zappos, an online shoe seller, had racked up a billion dollars in annual sales. They had created a reputation – among people who buy lots of shoes – for service that surpassed even Nordstrom. Zappos’ main brand-building tool: Twitter. They used Twitter mainly for customer service. It helped them be so responsive and so transparent, they created a business case that will be studied for years.

The Zappos case proves there’s more to Twitter than you can tell from the 140-character entries.

2. It opens up an entire new world of information. I wanted to learn about newer marketing techniques. Twitter was like getting a college degree on an accelerated schedule. It helped me identify experts in the field, follow them, and get quick notification of their newest blog posts. I learned what they are talking about and doing, and where to turn for answers.

On Twitter, you can find fresh, leading-edge information, often from unusual yet authoritative sources.

3. Twitter tears down physical barriers to meeting people. In my old life as an ad agency creative, I met and worked with some impressive individuals. But it took years to build up my Rolodex. (You kids under 30, look that up.) With Twitter, I connected and interacted with leaders in digital/social and social marketing in a matter of weeks.

I now communicate regularly with smart folks on every continent. Ideas know no boundaries. Business opportunities know very few.

4. Meet people locally. An unexpected benefit, to me, is how many people I’ve connected with right here in my own town, Spokane. Pretty valuable to someone who hasn’t lived here all that long.

Combine Twitter with your in-person networking strategy. Locate people locally, engage them, and create strategic relationships.

5. Twitter gently encourages you to take positive business action. I’ve never been the world’s best self-starter, but Twitter has made me better. Twitter forces you to prove your worth. You’ll have to provide good content yourself – or you can organize and curate other people’s content. You learn to focus and strengthen your message, and how to interact effectively.

The fact that people are just one click away from you and your business encourages you to get your business in order. It shows you how you stack up against competition, locally and globally. There’s no hiding behind your Twitter handle.

6. Twitter helps you research almost anything. Twitter’s search function helps you learn about people, products, companies and more.

You don’t even need a Twitter account to us  Twitter Search. It’s a great resource. It’s especially useful for real-time trends and information. Monitor your competition, or your foreign counterparts.

7. Get quick, candid feedback. Be direct and ask your followers about anything. Or target specific users, whether they follow you or not.

I use Twitter to ask questions to people I want to emulate, do business with, who have specific expertise, or those I just plain admire. Amazingly, they usually answer.

8. Establish credibility and expertise. Respond to comments, especially on your specialty topics. Answer questions. Ask great questions in return. Start conversations. Expand your influence.

Twitter is great for conversation. It’s why they call it “social” media. The 140-character limit imposes discipline, and lets you drive traffic to your site.

9. Promote your promotions. You have a white paper, a video, a free software application, a contest, a great blog post, a limited-time low price? Tweet it. Add a Twitter sharing button to your online communications. See them go viral. If you develop the right community, and offer the right value, Twitter can drive traffic to your website or your storefront.

Twitter is a gateway drug to other social media. It’s a good source of traffic to my blog. And with a Twitter “share button” on my blog, the reverse is true as well.

10. Google likes Twitter. I just Googled my name. The third item comes from my Twitter account. And it’s current.

Twitter is a fast way to improve your search engine rank.

11. There’s no right and wrong way to use Twitter. Twitter is new. It’s simple. Once you’re handy with it – in days – you’ll think of ways to use it that are just right for your business. [Edit to add: Actually, there are some wrong ways to use Twitter, as with anything else. There’s poor etiquette and obnoxious behavior. But that’s another post altogether.]

People do business with people they know, like and trust. Twitter is a tool for letting people know, like and trust you. What you do with it is up to you.

Give twitter a chance to help your business. Even if it’s not your bag, you’ll learn if and where it belongs in your marketing plan.

What are your thoughts, questions, reservations, or personal experiences with Twitter?