The Coca-Cola Company aims to enhance its brand and grow sales by delivering emotional experiences such as happiness, hope and optimism to consumers via mobile and social media and in stores operated by retail partners.
“We have a business model that calls for everybody who touches our products to benefit from that experience,” said Coca-Cola Refreshments Chief Retail Sales Officer Melvin Landis, who included retailers in that outreach.
“This idea of shared values is the essence of what Coca-Cola hopes to accomplish,” he said. “We collaborate with our customers to figure out how these values may fit into their business. We call that translating brand value into customer value, so that our customers can understand the value of our brands and how they can play a role in driving their business.”
Landis and Alison Lewis, Senior VP, Marketing, North America, Coca-Cola Company, outlined the brand’s marketing philosophy in a keynote presentation earlier this month in New York at the 102nd Annual Convention & Expo hosted by the National Retail Federation (NRF). They were joined on stage for a panel discussion by Joseph Magnacca, President, Daily Living Products and Solutions, Walgreens, and Mindy Grossman, CEO, HSN, Inc.
When working with retailers, Landis explained that Coca-Cola is guided by the notion that everything they do needs to provide value for the retail customer. This includes insights, collaboration and creating in-store excitement and execution. These components power the company’s 500 brands of soft drinks, juices, water and other beverages sold in 207 countries around the world.
“We hope to delight the shoppers who come in the store, and drive profitable growth. The secret formula for us is creating a unique solution for each of our [retail] customers so they can drive value from what we do,” he said.
The recipient of one of those unique solutions recently was Walgreens, the drug store chain and Coca-Cola’s oldest retail customer with more than 100 years of partnership. Landis explained that the chain is undergoing a major change by reinventing its business model.
“One of the key components of that,” he said, “is their new flagship store that moves away from being just as a drug store to being a lifestyle brand where people come in not only for their health and beauty aids, but to a place where they can become healthy and happy.”
Walgreens’ Well Experience flagship stores combine cutting-edge design with an improved product assortment of health care, beauty, fresh food and private brand solutions to meet the needs of local communities more closely. These stores are in Chicago, New York, Las Vegas, Philadelphia, Washington, DC.
“Walgreens came to us and asked how we could help,” said Landis. “They were looking for a memorable experience that was different from what everybody else was doing.”
So the beverage giant installed its new Coca-Cola Freestyle vending machine in the stores. Each unit dispenses more than 125 different drinks, including more than 50 non-carbonated beverages and more than 70 low-calorie choices. It uses proprietary technology and features concentrated ingredients stored in cartridges rather than bag-in-box syrup.
In the panel discussion, Magnacca of Walgreens said people want to have access to products on their terms. So the chain is attempting to address the needs of shoppers in every possible way.
Lewis of Coca-Cola said, “Marketing has changed. It’s no longer about brand-to-consumer communications. We have to think broadly about the market and its influencers. It’s much more fluid and complex than ever before, and it will accelerate at a very rapid rate. The reason why is the digital world. We are much more digitally connected. It’s a world of 24-7 communication anywhere, anytime.”
To illustrate how mobile and social media bring together brands and consumers, she pointed to Coca-Cola’s marketing tactics during the 2012 Super Bowl. Many sports fans watched the game on TV, but also followed the action on their mobile devices or “second screens.” They watched Coca-Cola’s polar bear mascots act as fans rooting for opposite teams and reacting in real time to the action on the field. Lewis said some nine million fans streamed the digital content during the Super Bowl and averaged about 28 minutes interacting with the polar bears.
“Stories are the new currency in building happiness,” she said. “We must engage consumers with stories – stories that have compelling content, memorable experiences and engaging conversations. Then we need to let those stories spread. Ultimately you have a liquid and linked environment, which is the creation of purposeful stories that create brand value and shared value.”
The last speaker in the panel discussion, Grossman of HSN, said her company operates the world’s largest online store of Coca-Cola licensed merchandise including kitchen appliances, home décor, toys, sporting goods and more.