Brands Cannot Pay Their Way to Greatness Anymore

For Coca-Cola, stories are currency, Wendy Clark, the beverage company's head of integrated marketing and communications, said during her keynote remarks on the second day of the Ad:Tech New York Conference yesterday.

Despite a few misses, Coca-Cola has proved very adept at telling stories about its iconic bottle. Citing the famous 1971 "Hilltop" ad that featured people on a hill holding Coke bottles and singing the song "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing," Clark stressed the importance of using experiences and emotional connections to build a powerful story around brands. "You cannot pay your way to greatness for your brands anymore so you have to be a great storyteller," Clark said. 

In 2009, Coca-Cola announced its plans to double its revenue by 2020, which equates to serving three billion Coca-Cola products a day, up from 1.7 billion today. Rising costs for raw materials and fuel and a struggling economy have cut into the company's profit margins, therefore a strong marketing strategy will play a key role in allowing the company to meet its goal.

Part of Coca-Cola's secret, Clark revealed, is a cross-media marketing approach that is both liquid and linked. "Your stories should be 'liquid' so that they can spread and they should be 'linked' to the brand and provide value," she said.

Acknowledging changes in the market landscape and being able to react accordingly is also important, Clark stressed.

When Coca-Cola realized it needed to strengthen its appeal to young people, it launched creative campaigns that emphasized fun and friendship.

One of the examples Clark cited was based in Argentina. To celebrate International Friendship Day in Argentina last year, the company planted 12-foot-tall Coca-Cola vending machines in public areas. Teenagers were seen boosting each other to deposit coins in the tall machines. As a reward, the machines also dispensed two Cokes instead of one.

"We sold 4.3 million Coke cans in 10 minutes [during the campaign], Clark said.

In parting, Clark shared her Eight Principles for Maximizing Value: 


  1. Be shareworthy
  2. Integrate
  3. Think horizontally
  4. Strive for more good not just more of more
  5. Listen
  6. Combine consistency with relevance and scale
  7. Collaborate
  8. Do not accept the status quo

And even if you still make a mistake, embrace it and move on, Clark urged. "Fail smart, fail fast, and fail forward," she said.

CRM Covers
for qualified subscribers
Subscribe Now Current Issue Past Issues