Consumer Generated Media .. It's The Real Thing


In  the summer of 2006, Coke_world Coca Cola learned a lesson that reflects it's 1970 tagline "It's The Real Thing" when EppyBird dumped a bunch of Mentos in some diet coke bottles and created a viral video that rocked the fizz off of the World's Most Valuable Brand.
Sidebar: Being Reasonable has an interesting post about the history of Coke taglines.

Coke executives saw first hand how consumers can take over the perception of a carefully crafted brand message. The Real Thing was what the consumers made it .. not the message controlled by the brand. Even a brand as powerful as Atlanta-based Coca Cola.  Read more: Media Post article (free registration required)

The story's gone round and round from blog-to-blog for months. What is new is the lessons learned that Tom Daly, Coca Cola Global Interactive Marketing, shared at the Atlanta Interactive Marketing Association, AiMA, meeting last week. Congrats! to Wade Forst, Spunlogic, who chaired the event.

Tom's presentation focused on Coke's entree into consumer generated branding. His talk was especially interesting to me since we had volleyed emails last summer about the Diet Coke/Mentos buzz on the blogopshere. I encouraged him to join the conversation but seems Coke wasn't ready go that route.

Sidebar: An organization's culture is a major determining factor of when (let's not say "if") employees can actively participate. In the meantime, monitoring the discussion is the first step and Coke is doing that. But that's a post for another day.*

Tom described two video strategies. The first was "Poetry in Motion Challenge" hosted and judged by the EppyBird Guys.Coke_holiday_vcard

The second was a winter holiday v-card (video) strategy -  Holiday Wishcast - developed in conjunction with YouTube. Coke provided people with the opportunity to create viral v-cards on YouTube. Video insert options included creating your own, downloading a YouTube video or a classic Coke commercial.  Max loved this CGM video where the pooch sings carols .. he joined right in .. virtual worlds and offline worlds intersecting!

People could then choose to send their cards to friends and relatives or share them with the world at  Coca Cola's Wishcast site. As with text e-cards the v-cards could be customized with a personal  greeting.

Marketing included traditional, interactive and blogger relations: press campaigns by YouTube and Coca-Cola, targeted search and online marketing, animated Web ads, communication to influential bloggers and podcasters. In addition Coke's presence on the v-card provided a viral reinforcement of offering.

7 Lessons Learned
Branding 2.0: The New Online Community

1. This is Complex - It’s complex and it carries risk

  • The campaign was designed quickly, with holiday-driven dates as immovable.
  • Many corporate and business functions were impacted, and mitigation strategies to distribute workload and traffic with partners made design and execution even more complex.

2. Fish Where the Fish Are - Stop trying to get them into your pool first. The prize isn’t the Prize. The Experience is the Prize

  • The campaign offered intuitive user experiences. 
  • Coke saw immensely more engagement and response to calls to action in this one promotion than in all other efforts to date combined. 

3. Users Love to Watch Our Ads - More than they hate advertising.

  • No contest was run – no finalists, no judges, no prizes. 
  • Everybody “won” and the reward was near-immediate.

4. Play to the Team’s Sweet Spots - More team is easier than wrong team.

  • Partners were asked to complete tasks that were within a narrowed scope.

5. Leverage Search - Especially for things you just invented.

  • Targeted and refined paid search drove a great deal of traffic from outside of YouTube – billions of impressions were achieved for very reasonable cost through strategic buys and continuous refinement. 
  • Since Coke invented and trademarked the term Wishcast, and launched the first V-card offering – neither of these were going to move the needle in any type of Search algorithm. Ancillary terms e.g.,  e-card, greetings, video were bought.

6. Understand Consumers’ Multiple Motives for Engaging  - Get ok with them.

  • Create offerings which leave room for all user types to enjoy engaging and tolerate coexistence

7. Let Consumers Defend You - They are more passionate and authentic anyway.

  • In multiple viral video initiatives similar patterns were observed: early comments skewed towards brand critics testing the tolerance of the brand.
  • When the brand established that it would not intervene to remove the criticism, consumer advocates arise in response and overwhelm critics in dialog.

Diva Comment: Coke learned that social media / the blogosphere self corrects.

Yes, I realize there was no RSS feed. Yes, I realize that Coke did not actively participate in the conversation (see above*).  Yes, I realize that for some the strategies Coca Cola implemented may seem like teeny steps, but for an organization that is known for doing things by the corporate book it is a giant leap and an entree into what may lead to other "social" aspects of social media marketing.

Yes, divas and divos, there is a difference between consumer generated content and social media. The difference between social media and consumer generated content is the integration of the people within the organization to exchange ideas with customers and other stakeholders.

Thanks to David Vanderpoel, North Highland. On Web Marketing, for provide the sides which included that above text.  North Highland is the management consulting firm that assisted in the development and execution of the strategies.


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Interesting post, but I have to say -- I am not a fan of all this recent focus on user-generated content. I feel like everyone is going over-board with this. I would prefer to see a good, professional ad, than one that is poorly created by some college kid. I'm not the only one -- Shelly Palmer tore apart the recent Dove UGC ad:

I tune in for quality. Time is too valuable to waste it watching stuff that hasn't been done with high production values.

- Phil

Posted by: Phil on Apr 3, 2007 2:41:09 PM

Phil - Very good point. Yes, it does sometimes feel like a kid with a new toy. I would imagine that with experience will come modification as well. It also seems to me that consumer generated ads are how some companies think they can establish a footprint in the 'social media world.' As we've seen it takes more than an ad or two to do that.

Posted by: Toby on Apr 4, 2007 8:59:40 AM

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