How not to engage in social media: A personal story

Coca-Cola North America does more marketing in a day than most of us do in years. And judging by the record, they do it extremely well. At the risk of seeming picayune, here’s some constructive criticism. Continue reading

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?