Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Hearts and minds at Coca-Cola

A couple of weeks ago, I spent a day in Berlin. It was the kind of day I love best, full of paradox and insight. For a start I was in Berlin, a city of paradoxes if ever there was one, to talk to the marketing staff of Coca-Cola. Any of you who follow this blog will know that a can of Diet Pepsi is never far from my hand and that I was once the CEO of Pepsi in Canada. And those of you who have gone so far as to read my CV know that I shot up a Coke vending machine once at a sales conference. The goal was simple: to galvanize our Pepsi marketing team who needed to let off steam after finally reaching the number 1 slot in that market after many years in Coke’s shadow. Would I do it again? Probably not. The climate has changed dramatically, but I’d have to say that as an example of direct action it was unforgettable and has followed me ever since. I mention this because Verena Nabrotzky, who introduced me at the Coca-Cola event, retold the story in some detail.

You can imagine that being in Coca-Cola’s German HQ felt a little like straying into the lion’s den. Fortunately, the members of a mainly young audience were engaged and kind. They face quite a challenge, like any mature brand whether it’s Tide, Pampers or Cheerios. Coke has one of the greatest brands in the world (in every list they always come in the top two or three no matter how the list is constructed). They are a Lovemark to millions, but are also under constant pressure to innovate and be fresh and relevant for new audiences. The aging population in Germany poses a special challenge for what has been a youth attractor. I’m particularly excited by the possibilities of Coke Zero. Great name, great qualities but in need of more Mystery, Sensuality and Intimacy, especially in the packaging. For people to love Coke Zero they will have to love it as part of their lives, as part of what they think is important. That is Coke’s challenge, just as it is the challenge of many major brands. Now that the data that retailers collect and analyze tells them just about every detail of what’s in the minds of shoppers, it is time for brands and Lovemarks to step up and know everything that is in their hearts. Do that, and as John Wayne almost said, “their minds will follow.”


Pi said...

Hi KR,
I would have enjoyed seeing that scene played out when you took to the Coke vending machine with a gatling gun (yea I know it was not a gatling gun, but this was a cool opportunity to use this brilliant word). I must tell you I am one of those totally apposed to all carbonated drinks whether they are love marks or not. In fact I see the fact that they can become love marks despite what they are (I won't get into that right now) shows up a huge weakness in mankind.

I am not the type to campaign against this sort of product or consumer behaviour though. If fools wish to voluntarily take that crap on board it's their own choice right. The fact that there is so much effort and energy put into gaining more and keeping current Coke drinkers is worrying though.

What was incredible to see though was the Coke TV ad that they are running again now that the football Euro 2008 competition is on. Its that old cartoon where they use Adultery, vivisection, deforestation and some other crazy scenes to show Coke supports the lighter side of life. I'm no Saint and I am sure I am a hypocrite many times a day but this is a shocker man! Leaves me with a heavy dark feeling every time I see it. There are so many more creative brains out there, no need to settle for that destructive garbage.
Can't wait for the finals. Will go crack open a Guinness when the Coke ad airs ; )

Anne said...

Hi Kevin,
You appear to make a very large assumption at the closure of your report on your Berlin Coca-Cola meeting; “the data that retailers collect and analyze tells them just about every detail of what’s in the minds of shoppers”. I expect that the marketing department (where I worked years ago) has an abundance of data on buyer behaviour, but that is only the outcome, but what is driving that behaviour still remains tucked away in that “black box”. And that is what has to be explored in depth if one wants to understand the emotional motivators of behaviour.

I was entertained by your John Wayne quote; however, suggesting that emotion resides in one’s heart and that one’s mind only dictates behaviour is an antiquated as Descartes. And I appreciate all that you have written regarding Lovemarks; and, again, I don’t argue with the outcome. Yes, one needs to turn brands into Lovemarks, as it is emotion that drives decision making, but what is missing is the science of the mind (not the heart) that explains why Lovemarks are essential. And in understanding the science of the mind, then one can begin to develop research techniques that actually uncover the deep motivators of behaviour. And until one understands these deep emotional drivers, creating a Lovemark is simply guess work. To be fair, I expect that often it is educated guess work, but just imagine what could be created when much of the guessing is replaced by knowing.