Is Coke’s global approach bad for Kiwi audiences?

It took creative minds from 10 different agencies across the Coca-Cola marketing network to develop the global campaign for 2016.

After throwing around ideas, Coca-Cola charged Mercado-McCann, Sra. Rushmore, Santo, and Oglivy & Mather New York with the responsibility of bringing the concept to life.

The result is a collection of 10 TVCs, over 100 campaign images, a new visual identity system and the introduction of a new tagline: Taste the Feeling.

Of these ten ads, Coca-Cola has released three in the local market.

Lisa Winn, the marketing director of Coca-Cola South Pacific, says that these spots were selected specifically with the local target market in mind.

“The core ideas are based on universal human truths, and we believe these [ads]will resonate with consumers in Australia and in New Zealand,” Winn says.

“Anthem really sets the theme and reinforces the idea of ‘taste the feeling’. We also think ‘Brotherly Love’ will resonate with Kiwis because it’s all about sibling rivalry and a lot of Kiwis will relate to that. [And] the other one is about breakup, which is again a universal story of love and romance.”

In addition to running these three spots, Coca-Cola will also be running various activations with its local agency, Ogilvy & Mather NZ, over the course of the year.

“We are doing an activation with the Black Caps, which will be released in late January, and we’ve got a number of different local partners that we will be activating our campaign through over the course of the year,” says Winn.

“There’s always the opportunity for the local markets to add to the body of work and build off the themes and reinforce the marketing on key occasions. They can also add to the overall creative and ideas.”

The release of this campaign signals a major shift in the way Coca-Cola does its marketing across the globe.

Winn says the drinks company is increasingly focused on collaboration across the whole group when it comes to introducing new campaigns.

“We always worked with a number of agencies and we’ve always been quite heavily networked, but Marcos de Quinto, the new CMO, has taken it to a new level,” says Winn.

“We’re much more networked now as a marketing organisation. The agencies from right around the world, who have worked on this new campaign, have really been immersed in the core creative idea. They all had a really strong understanding of what we were trying to achieve, and you can see that in the work. While it was developed by various agencies, it all resonates with the central idea of Taste the Feeling and that simple pleasure of drinking a Coca-Cola.”

While this new approach will see some of the best creative minds in the world working together, Mumbrella editor Alex Hayes expressed concern that it might take the brand backwards in the Australian market:

“Every time I see a case study video about one of the Coke campaigns it starts with a line like ‘64 per cent of Australian teens don’t drink Coke’ or ‘Coca-Cola was no longer deeply connecting with Australians’. It’s a brand that needs to reinvent to stay relevant, and it’s beyond me how introducing generic global creative will do that.”

Hayes argues the themes are too familiar, the storytelling too generic and the end product too skippable to resonate with the local audiences Coca-Cola is hoping to reach with the creative.

While these arguments are all valid, Apple also rolls out global creative in all its target markets and it does pretty well at connecting with its customers in those regions. Much as is the case in television, literature, music or any creative art, if an idea is strong enough, it will resonate with the audience (whether Coca-Cola’s creative does connect with local audiences is, however, yet to be seen).

Winn also stresses there’s the possibility that ideas born in the regional markets could become global if they’re good enough.

In fact, she says that part of the rationale for the change in approach is about ensuring that the strongest ideas in local markets are taken global faster.

“We have a great track record across Australia and New Zealand in terms of coming up with locally developed ideas that then go global. But it has in the past taken time for those ideas to network across the world. ‘Share a Coke’ is a great example. It came from Australia, but it took a number of years to go global. We have reflected on that, and the idea now is about ensuring that they spread more rapidly right around the globe.”

Over the last few years, Coca-Cola sales have stagnated as increasing numbers of consumers veer away from overly sugary drinks.

However, Winn says the performance of the brand in the local market was strong last year.

“In New Zealand, we’ve had a very strong 2015 and we’re very pleased with the performance. Transactions have been increasing across more households. That’s really a combination of the various innovations we’ve taken to market in New Zealand. We’ve had our small 300ml portion we launched a few years ago and that’s done well. We’re also finding that our new products such as Coke Life as well as our other low and no kilojoule products have been going well.”

The new global campaign also plays an important role in this regard. Whereas Coca-Cola previously promoted its different variations separately, the new campaign brings them together.

“This is really important for the future of Coca-Cola— it’s about uniting the variants but also providing choice for consumers,” says Winn.

As the battle against sugar continues to heat up, providing choice will be integral in keeping the sales figures ticking. And this in turn makes it essential for the company to inform consumers of the various options it has available.

Another important aspect of the business lies in its partnerships with fast food companies. And the company had significant win in this regard at the end of last year, when KFC ditched Pepsi for Coke.

“The roll out happened just recently and we’ve had some great feedback from consumers who just love that they can have a Coca-Cola in that outlet,” says Winn.

But Coca-Cola also suffered a recent loss, with the All Blacks ending its two-decade partnership with the company in favour of a new deal with Pepsi-owned Gatorade.

Quinn does however add that Coca-Cola has partners and sponsorship agreements across New Zealand, which are integral to the brand in the local market.

So while the brand might not be shooting an ad in Otira this year, you can rest assured that the brand will still be visible across the nation at sporting events, takeaway shops and dairies. And there’s no skip button when it comes to these activations.   

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