As one of the most recognized brands in the world, you’d think that Coca-Cola would have its lawyers squashing anyone who tampered with the company’s iconic image.
Maybe before social media, but now.
Presenting at Social Media Week in New York, Scott Ryan, Vice President Specialty Retail for Coke, made the startling statement, “Marketers don’t own their brand, consumers do.”
For example, Coke discovered a YouTube video with a demonstration showing that candy mints dropped into a Diet Coke cause a geyser to erupt. Instead of sending a cease and desist letter, Coke marketers asked themselves, “What if we were to partner with them — provide them with the right tools access to our brand to create experiences they can share?” He called this the “new brand connectivity model.”
Below is a video entitled “Diet Coke + Mentos” that has gotten 16.9 million views. A video produced by the Discover Channel on how Coca-Cola is made has received only 500,000 views. You get the picture.
Empowering Consumers to Tell Stories
Ryan continued, “Retailers aren’t about selling beverages. We’re about bringing people together as part of special occasions and how we can be part of that.” There are 6.5 billion mobile phones, 1.8 billion smart phones and 80.7 million tablets in use around the world. Just think about the impact of having a consumer promotion go viral.
Brands need to empower user created content, he said. It’s all about engaging consumers in stories around your brand. “People are going to say whatever they want and it will spread with or without us,” he said. Coke links the cultivation of purposeful stories that scale and spread to its business objects. “We need to make sure we have the right stories.”
Coke has launched its first all-digital campaign on a website called ahh.com in which the company invites consumers to share their own videos with “ahh” moments that can be shared on social networks. “It’s been incredibly successful,” Ryan said.
Here is a video Coke posted just this week explaining how viewers can become part of the Coke marketing team to create the next Coca-Cola commercial. Viewers can post their short “ahh” video clips to Instagram/Vine/Twitter/Tumblr using the hashtag #ThisIsAhh, or submit their clips on the ahh.com website.
Coke’s Happiness Campaign
Coke has extended its connection with consumers with a dozen interactive Coca-Cola vending machines around the world in a Dispensing Happiness campaign. In this humorous video, viewed 6 million times, a group of New York college students learn that a Coke machine can dispense more than just a Coke.
What Does This Mean for Your Brand?
Your brand is what you want to be known for, whether you’re an individual entrepreneur or company. But it’s become clear that you can’t impose your brand values on your customers. Your brand will be defined by the sum of the personal experiences individuals have with you and your company. Nothing can be left to chance. The web can spread happy stories about a customer’s experience. Or, as we all know, one false step and a negative tweet can bounce around the world at the speed of light. How are you defining your brand? How do you encourage interaction with your customers? Please share your comments below.