COCA COLA BRAND STRATEGY CASE STUDY

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The Making of a Global Brand

Category: Beverage

Owner of the brand: The Coca Cola Company 

Key competitors: Keurig Dr Pepper, Tropicana Products, PepsiCo, Britvic, Red Bull, Fever-Tree and Monster Beverage.

If you think of the color red and white, it would be an anomaly if the image of the Canadian flag, Christmas, and Coca-Cola did not appear in your head. This is not a coincidence; some would agree that this is merely an exhibit of how marketing can embed a product or the brand into the deepest fabrics of our minds. 

Coca-Cola (Coke) is undoubtedly one the most successful brands to modernize their approach to marketing, branding, and innovation. They’ve been in the market for centuries and are here to stay. With over 2800 products shipped to more than 200 countries around the world, Coca-Cola has undoubtedly trumped its competition as one of the largest beverage manufacturers in the global market. In fact, Coke is one of the handfuls of brands in the world that does not feel the need to re-invent its products or packaging. The product itself has primarily been the same and consistent over the years, with a few minor changes since its introduction to the market in 1892. 

The story of how Coke emerged as a global brand is rather funny. John Pemberton, the founder of Coca-Cola, did not originally intend to sell it as a soda beverage; rather, it was his dearest wish to have people acknowledge his genius at making medicine or any liquid that would sell. Once launched, it rapidly transitioned into being not only the best-selling carbonated drinks in the world but also one of the most successful businesses to have existed. Sold in a cocoa-bean-shaped bottle in the 1910s, Coca-Cola might not have managed to replace coffee as it had first intended, but it certainly became a cultural phenomenon and a globally recognized symbol of the American taste in its own right.

Coca-Cola was initially named Coca Kola, and this is when nobody knew about it. With its oddly shaped packaging and a rather questionable formula (cocaine was one of the ingredients until 1903!), John miserably failed at trying to sell this drink until he met with his friend, Frank Robinson, and devised a proper marketing strategy. 

Coca-Cola now rests high up in the top companies of the world because they sell more than a beverage – they sell an experience in a bottle. It is targeted to all generations, and its ability to survive in the market for hundreds of years and persist through large-scale cultural and global changes is extremely remarkable. There’s a lot to be learned from Coca-Cola’s ‘intended for all’ marketing strategy, and their unique approach can be witnessed in their specially designed marketing campaigns that include all that the brand stands for. 

Simplicity

The beauty of Coca-Cola’s branding lies in its simplicity. Coca-Cola has stayed true to its one strong and powerful message: pleasure. Timeless, straightforward phrases like “Enjoy” and “Happiness” are at the crux of Coke’s branding; they seldom go out of style and translate well throughout the world.

Socialization

Surviving the era of modernization and fast-paced development while staying true to their original product is a feat Coca-Cola has achieved like no other company. In today’s largely digitalized world, Coca-Cola has undoubtedly triumphed in the online marketing game.

The brand has successfully employed social media marketing to widen its worldwide reach, promote its products to its target market and establish its presence on almost every single global platform. The company’s shareable two-part can ‘Split a Coke’ campaign, for example, is one of the most effective modern social media efforts to engage customers and encourage interaction. 

Personalization

The Coca-Cola Company has placed great importance on establishing direct contact with its customers. They recognize the need to communicate with customers on a more personal, localized level and have mastered the skill of implementing this in their marketing strategies. Coca-Cola’s marketing and ad campaigns have always mirrored the essence of the local culture and language, which is why it performs well in nearly every region around the world. 

Experience

One of the most important elements underlying Coca-Cola’s success is its single-minded focus on ‘brand over product.’ With their goal of selling ‘happiness in a bottle, Coca-Cola aims to be more than just a sweet drink; they offer an experience that reels people in and keeps them coming back for more. 

Look and Feel

Coca-Cola’s iconic slanted white script over a deep red background is unquestionably one of the most recognized brand logos of all time. The logo was designed in 1885, written in the distinctive Spencerian script, which was popular among accountants at the time. This unique style of writing was intended to set the brand apart from its competition, and it did just that. Even though Coca-Cola’s packaging has undergone slight changes with time, the original logo has stayed with the company unaltered, much like the formula itself. 

In addition, Coca-Cola’s distinctive bottle design was born out of a need for a defensive marketing strategy in response to rising competition. In 1915, a nationwide contest for a new bottle design was launched at a time when the brand was losing market share to hundreds of competitors. This was intended to communicate to customers that Coke was a premium product that should not be mistaken with any other brown cola in a transparent glass container.

Pricing Strategy

Coca-Cola’s price strategy is yet another example of how the brand has successfully stayed afloat in a rapidly evolving market. From 1886 to 1959 (for 73 years), Coca-Cola’s set price was just five cents. However, as competition from Pepsi became stronger, the brand made its product pricing more flexible, managing to both counter competition and prevent customer distrust and loss in sales. 

Sponsorship

As one of the world’s most well-known sponsor brands, Coca-Cola has a long history of sponsorships with large names such as Apple iTunes, BET Network, the NBA, NCAA, and even the Olympic Games. Another recognizable partnership is Coca-Cola’s thirteen-year-long sponsorship of American Idol, an extremely popular reality TV series. 

Coca-Cola’s smart sponsorship tactics have been in place for decades. The company has an astonishing 93 year-long partnership with the Olympic Games, having been an important sponsor since the 1928 Amsterdam Olympic Games. Coca-Cola is also known for coming up with unique bottle designs or promotion campaigns. For example, Coca-Cola Great Britain specially designed a rose-emblazoned bottle for the London Olympic Games in 2012, portraying the company’s dedication to Olympic sponsorship.

Global Outreach

The Coca-Cola Corporation is quite literally a cultural and global phenomenon. The company’s operations cover 200 countries (all but two!) in the world, with over 84,000 supplies in Asia, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, and North America. The company is worth a whopping $72 billion, and an astonishing 94% of the world’s population recognizes Coca-Cola’s iconic red-and-white swirling logo at first glance! (Business Insider). 

The Brand Today

Coke has come a long way from being a small-scale business to becoming a household name today. The beverage has managed to persist through the Industrial Revolution, two world wars, and the digital technology revolution – and it is unlikely that Coke is going away any time soon. 

Coca-Cola has managed to maintain its position as an industry leader for 125 years, and there is a lot to be learned from Coca-Cola’s marketing game plan. The brand has mastered the art of establishing a strong worldwide presence, developing personal connections, being inventive, and sticking to simple principles at the same time. 

With the world youth’s gathering on an Italian hilltop in 1971 and singing ‘I’d Like To Buy The World a Coke’ as a response to turbulent times, it is evident that Coca-Cola’s influence and demand go beyond that of an everyday soft drink company. Coca-Cola remains an industry leader, but it did not become a global brand overnight. Whereas the brand has had its fair share of marketing blunders and mistakes, it has managed to secure the highest international presence in the soft-drink industry in the 20th and 21st centuries and is winning the hearts of billions of people even today. 

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