Coca-Cola is the most recognized brand on the planet.
For over 100 years the company has been the exemplars of how to keep your brand relevant. Considering they peddle sugar water… that’s quite a feat.
There’s been a few notable missteps along the way such as the introduction of ‘New Coke” in 1985 (or was this a brilliant marketing ploy to reintroduce their flagship product as Coca-Cola ‘Classic’) and not all new product launches have been successful. That said, maintaining a leadership position in a commodity business for well over a century… that is truly remarkable.
I’ve highlighted below a few video promotions that illustrate why I believe Coca-Cola to be the preeminent marketing company on the planet.
Lesson #1. Be Remarkable.
Coke 2020 Christmas Promo. This short film follows a well travelled, “I’ll be home for Christmas” formula by way of Dad overcoming a series of Homerian obstacles on his epic journey to reunite with his family. Sure it’s cheesy and a bit silly, but it’s really well filmed… and it’s a lot of fun to watch… and it’s certainly not your standard “lifestyle” Christmas promotional fare. Coke understands that evoking emotions – and associating those emotions with their brand is what keeps them relevant – and they are willing to spend the money to achieve these goals.
Lesson #2. Be Unique
Beautiful. It’s hard to categorize this video although the title ‘Beautiful’ certainly does this video justice. I imagine James Cameron would be impressed with the fanciful world that Coke created to represent what goes on inside a Coke vending machine. This ad aired in both 30 and 60 second formats a few years back although I believe this extended version (90 seconds) serves this video the best. Allusions to Willy Wonka and other children’s stories have been made, but this video is like no other. The risk in stepping out this far into an imaginary world is that because there is no frame of reference it is far easier to fail than it is to succeed. Because there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ it is more likely that the viewer will respond “what the $@!# was that?” rather than “that was incredible”. Like the Evian Babies promo – if you have amazing work representing your brand, you reap great rewards. But if you step out, take a big risk and fail, you fail big.
Lesson # 3. Be timeless.
Northern Lights. This original Polar Bear ad ran in 1993 and was developed to support the “Always Coca-Cola” campaign. Coca-Cola is the most consistent brands on the planet. They develop great advertising that has universal appeal and, quite often, resonates with many different cultures. Coke recognized the appeal of this first polar bear ad and has developed an ongoing series of polar bear ads that have run over the last 20 years – usually coinciding with the Christmas season.
This series of polar bear videos consistently, and ironically, delivers two of the most engaging human attributes – innocence and playfulness.
Lesson #4. Be Relevant
I‘d like to teach the world to sing. In 2007, Campaign Magazine called this video “one of the best-loved and most influential ads in TV history.” Created by McCann Erickson in 1971 this video neatly captured a newly emerging global consciousness. The ‘Peace Generation’ of the sixties introduced North America to a world beyond war and commerce. This video, accompanied by a great song written for the commercial (which later made it all the way to #1 in Britain and #6 on the music charts in the US), tapped into the zeitgeist of the nation in a way that very few commercials have. Even older generations who otherwise hated the ‘hippy freaks’ found something to like in this love song to the world.
Being relevant is the hardest thing for a company to do. ‘Relevance’ extends beyond the specific attributes of your brand. Great brands know how to be relevant because they have leadership who are attuned to the fashion, styles, trends and business priorities of the day. Unfortunately there is no rule, or law, or guidance for how to be relevant. Smart media agencies can help show you the way but ultimately it’s the company that makes the decision on how it promotes itself. Your company either has this awareness built into its DNA (i.e. Coke, Apple, Nike) or it doesn’t.
Lesson #5. Be Memorable.
Mean Joe Green Being ‘memorable’ is different than being ‘unique’. Unique (different) is good – that means you stand out, but being memorable is more important. Memorable usually means simple -a simple moment or gesture so powerful that it sticks with you for months or years. In this iconic Super Bowl ad ‘Mean’ Joe Green shares a moment with a young fan. The point of highlighting this video is to show that videos don’t need to be overly complex to be effective. The simplest idea can be the most powerful if it is delivered in an engaging way. Good storytelling is about finding an emotional link that will resonate with an audience. This ad has a universal appeal and is arguably one of the most memorable ads ever developed.
Interestingly, Coke tried a remake of this commercial with Troy Polamalu recently but it just didn’t have the same magic as the original. Yes, even the best marketers don’t always hit home runs. The difference between Coke and most other marketers is that even Coke’s ‘failures’ are pretty good.