Recently, I heard Tim Goudie, Director of Social Media, Sustainability at The Coca-Cola Company, give a keynote presentation at ClickZ Live New York on “Sustainability, Storytelling & Social Media.” His presentation included several YouTube videos that illustrated:
- Why Sustainability is such a critical part of Coca-Cola marketing.
- Important dos & don’ts for brand storytelling.
- What type of content really connects with consumers on social media and via video.
Coca-Cola: The Business of Sustainability
Sustainability is at the heart of Coca-Cola’s business, and in its 2013/2014 Sustainability Report, Muhtar Kent, Chairman of the Board and CEO of The Coca-Cola Company says that “sustainability efforts are themselves only sustainable when they help our enterprise grow and prosper. Indeed, we believe this work must be integral to our mission of refreshing the world, inspiring moments of optimism and happiness, creating value and making a difference.”
As a result, Coca-Cola has chosen to focus on three areas of fundamental importance to its business – areas where the company believes it has the best opportunity to make a lasting positive difference. They are called the “Three Ws”: Well-Being, Women, and Water:
Empowering Female Entrepreneurship
For example, Coca-Cola is in the fourth year of a program to economically empower 5 million women entrepreneurs across all six segments of the company’s value chain by 2020 through its 5by20 program. This initiative aims to help women entrepreneurs, from fruit farmers to artisans, overcome the barriers they face to succeed in business. As of September 2014, Coca-Cola’s 5by20 programs had enabled more than 550,000 women in 44 countries since 2010.
Goudie showed “5by20 – Bessie Mogale” to illustrate how a mother, grandmother, and shop owner from Rustenberg, South Africa, is experiencing the benefits of 5by20.
Goudie also showed “The Chain of Inspiration.” The YouTube video’s description says, “Women entrepreneurs around the world can hold many roles. They are daughters, mothers, caregivers, wives, breadwinners and more. And, above all, they set ambitious goals and work hard to achieve those goals. They aspire to own their own businesses, provide a good education for their children, and create the best life possible for themselves and their families. Coca-Cola’s 5by20 initiative is working to empower 5 million women entrepreneurs across the Company’s global value chain by the year 2020, to provide the tools and skills needed to act on those dreams.”
In his keynote, Goudie asked a rhetorical question that many video marketers ask themselves
How do we raise awareness of the good we do in a way that connects with consumers?
That’s where he shared some important dos and don'ts for brand storytelling. Goudie said prior to the use of social media by businesses, Coca-Cola had traditionally targeted its sustainability communications to the media, government agencies and NGOs, health professionals, and academia. However, the consumer shift to digital media meant the company could use a networked collaboration model that communicated to consumers as well as traditional audiences.
Coca-Cola: A Brand Voice & a Company Voice
One of those sustainability initiatives is working to balance the water Coca-Cola uses by 2020, returning to its communities and nature an amount of water equivalent to that used in the company’s finished beverages and their production. Coca-Cola is currently on track to achieve this water goal. In 2013, the company replenished an estimated 68% (a calculated estimate of108.5 billion liters) of the water used in its finished beverages through 509 community water partnership projects in more than 100 countries, and Coca-Cola improved its system-wide water use efficiency for the 11th consecutive year with an 8% improvement over 2010.
Goudie acknowledge that Coca-Cola also had to rebalance the online conversation – from one that was weighted towards well-being to one that covered well-being, women, and water more equally. The company created a cross-functional team to coordinate key messages even while using two different voices: A company voice and a brand voice.
To illustrate the company voice, Goudie showed “Introducing PlantBottle.” This first-ever recyclable plastic bottle is made from plants. And while the packaging looks, functions, and recycles just like traditional PET plastic, it leaves a smaller footprint on the planet.
To illustrate the brand voice, Goudie showed “PlantBottle Pendulum Wave.” Eight unbranded bottles swing back and forth creating mesmerizing patters. At first, you see three waves moving through each other. Then it changes to two waves, then back to three, and finally it comes back to one single wave.
Driving the Message on Social Media
Goudie explained that Coca-Cola’s sustainability stories are sources from across the world. The staff at the company’s Atlanta headquarters started by creating a content library with cleared global digital rights and talent releases. That was then pushed out through paid social media. Each campaign was part of a pre-planned 12 month calendar managed by an editorial team.
His presentation included a slide that compared the monthly visitors to Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter with the populations of China, India, the United States, and Indonesia. Coca-Cola drove consumers from social media to Coca-Cola’s Journey website for a deeper, richer experience.
For example, Coca-Cola continues its work to meet the company’s 2013 global business commitments to promote well-being and to help address the public health challenge of obesity and sedentary lifestyles. In 2013, Coca-Cola offered more than 800 reduced-, low- and no-calorie products worldwide — nearly 25% of its global portfolio. The company also supported more than 290 physical activity programs in nearly 125 countries.
Goudie showed “The story of Copa Coca-Cola” to highlight one of these physical activity programs. In 1989, a passionate Coca-Cola bottler wanted to help change young people’s lives in his country through football (soccer). And Copa Coca-Cola was born. Over 25 years later, Copa Coca-Cola is a global football tournament played in over 60 countries. And it’s not just about winning. It’s also about respect, sportsmanship, and team spirit.
Identifying Content That Really Works
Goudie said, “By constantly learning and iterating, we identified content that really worked. We drove incremental traffic to our owned media. We delivered these sustainability stories at highly competitive CPMs. The investment in paid social media generated owned and earned (media).”
He concluded his keynote with these other key results for 2014:
- Improvement in consumers’ perception of The Coca-Cola Company, according to a 2014 Twitter Brand Effect Study.
- Increase in consumer net-sentiment year on year.
- Decrease in spontaneous negative posts.
- Highly targeted impressions at a CPM significantly less than prime time TV.
Coca-Cola has scores of channels on YouTube, and the primary one, the Coca-Cola channel, has 556.4 million views and 475,000 subscribers. It’s worth noting that rival PepsiCo has also issued Sustainability reports. Called “Performance with Purpose,” Pepsi’s program is focused on providing a wide range of foods and beverages from treats to healthy eats; finding innovative ways to minimize that company’s impact on the environment and reduce its operating costs; providing a safe and inclusive workplace for their employees globally; and respecting, supporting and investing in the local communities where they operate. However, PepsiCo appears to have used Pinterest more than YouTube to raise awareness of the good they do.
So, Coca-Cola is slightly ahead of its closest direct competitor on YouTube in the ongoing “Cola Wars.” This means Coca-Cola’s Sustainability campaign is part of the margin of difference, making it integral to the company’s mission to refresh the world, inspire moments of optimism and happiness, as well as create value and making a difference.