Want to Share a Coke?

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By Carlee Pett, Account Executive, R&J Public Relations

Coca-Cola’s “Share a Coke” Campaign Exudes Pure PR Brilliance  

The summer-long “Share a Coke” campaign by Coca-Cola has officially reached its end, driving consumers to their local supermarkets and convenience stores to get a last chance at finding their ‘personalized’ coke bottle. Let’s be honest, even those of us who are non-Coke drinkers have wandered to the refrigerated beverage section to sort through the Cokes to see if our name was printed on one. (Note to reader: I never found a ‘Carlee’ Coke)

We live in a virtual world that revolves around the Internet, with more people connecting through the digital space and spending less face time with friends, family, clients, etc. Brands have been mindful of this shift in the way their consumers are communicating and adapting to the changing environment. But what I found to be most intriguing about the “Share a Coke” campaign is that Coke found a way to encourage people to connect with the brand both online and offline.

Image courtesy of Coca-Cola

Image courtesy of Coca-Cola

Coke did away with the typical branding on its cans and bottles and exchanged its iconic logo with one of the 250 most common names in the U.S. For those of us who weren’t lucky enough to find a cola with our name on it, Coke’s tour bus made 500 stops this summer around the country where visitors could create their own personalized can, thus making a personal connection with consumers.

The multi-platform communications strategy was pure genius in that it encouraged people to purchase a Coke with their name or a friend’s name on it, and share it with a person they knew either literally or virtually. It also gave people the tools to find and connect with others. Coke has been known for its innovative advertisements and widespread sponsorships of popular events, so brand recognition is not a problem. What it needed was a PR program that actually encouraged people to buy and drink Coke, and their response was to send people directly to stores in a quest for their moniker on a bottle. The campaign also encouraged people to engage with Coke via social media, using the hashtag #shareacoke marked on every can/bottle. People posted photos and videos on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, creating a viral social media campaign and even greater brand awareness.

Image courtesy of Pepperidge Farm

Image courtesy of Pepperidge Farm

Other brands have tried to personalize their service – Starbucks writes the customer’s name on each coffee, Brooks Brothers allows men to create their own suits, M&M allows customers to customize the candy with images or phrases of their choice, and Pepperidge Farms allows customers to design their own Goldfish containers – but what I’ve noticed is that none of these companies have achieved the breadth of recognition that Coke has, probably due to the unique hybrid of online and offline relevance. The Share a Coke campaign supports the need for brands to involve their customer and give them a sense of ownership.

The lesson for PR people is this:  We need to think back to the basics and develop creative ways to reach our target audiences by creating personal connections, which will likely result in brand loyalty. Whether people wanted to get highly involved or just take part in the fun and grab a drink with their name on it, Coke made a big splash and did a fantastic job in reuniting and engaging its consumers, while sparking new conversations about its bubbly soda.

This brilliant and highly-engaging campaign successfully reconnected Coke with lost consumers and helped to introduce new ones, setting a new precedent for future plans in the world of marketing and public relations. Bravo, Coca-Cola, you’ve really outdone yourself this time!


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