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Re-imagining the Coca-Cola experience by going digital first

The Coca-Cola Company wants to be a digital first business – an aspiration not easy for a legacy, brick & mortar advertiser. But 12 month ago, the beverage manufacturer gave itself a five-year timeline and a four-point digital transformation plan to achieve this.

The company is focusing on four key areas — experiences, operations, business and culture. The objective is to create personalized experiences for consumers, make Coca-Cola better internally in its processes, disrupting itself before someone else does and changing the fabric of the organization.

Speaking at the Adobe Summit 2018, Coca-Cola’s head of digital, David Godsman said, “Digital does two things — it enables unified experiences, regardless of language or place. It also enables people to participate and co-create the experiences we bring to market.”

Co-creation, is in fact, an important word for the company in its pursuit. While not disrupting its agency model, Coca-Cola is continuing the once dubbed user-generated, now called crowd-sourced, path. The company opened up briefs to everyone in order to not miss out on the “hidden gems”.

On path of being experience makers instead of conventional marketers, Godsman said, “Our consumers are experience makers, and we see our future as a company that is co-creating with our consumers. We know that if we go hand-in-hand with them into the future, we will win their hearts and minds and earn the right to be part of their daily lives.”

Come One, Come All
“When it comes to digital transformation, Coke thinks about experiences, technology, and talent. But the experience ultimately starts with the product,” added James Sommerville, VP of global design at Coca-Cola.

In October last year, Coca-Cola partnered with Adobe to invite the creative community to “reimagine the Coca-Cola experience”. The initiative CokexAdobexYou has already generated over 900 submissions to the open brief ‘Create a work of art celebrating Coca-Cola, sport, movement, strength and unity using Adobe Creative Cloud tools’.

The initiative is part of the overall preparation towards the Tokyo Olympics 2020, where Coca-Cola is among the key sponsors.

In his address, Godsman admitted that the “new digital world” is somewhat unknown to the marketer. He said. “We need to learn more about our consumers, understand them, and personalize at scale. It’s a world where we need to bridge the physical and digital worlds together.”

The Phygital
Navigating the physical and digital is not new to Coca-Cola that has time and again shown examples of some clutter breaking work from making its dispensing machines interactive t creating vending machines that refill mobile data instead of beverage.

Despite being among one of the most innovative marketers globally, Coca-Cola has had its fair share of criticisms in marketing not making a difference to its business. However, the past has taught it much according to Sommerville. He said, “We have a phrase ‘Kiss the Past Hello’. People talk about failing fast – this is the Coca-Cola way of saying a similar thing. Our past is so important to us. It educates us. The good, the bad, what worked, what didn’t.”

Essentially, Coca-Cola is doing some of the things that marketers like it have done in the past but with a new lens and with the objective of creating something that truly connects with the consumer. Collaboration is still key to its strategy and the consumer is invited on the journey too. But this time, it is also calling for the breed of creative technologists who can help it standout in its creative call.

Noor Fathima Warsia

A veteran journalist in the Indian marketing, media and advertising fraternity, Noor Fathima Warsia took on the role of Group Editor -– APAC for Digital Market Asia in May 2013. Noor has focussed on tracking trends and developments in the Indian media industry.