‘Share a Coke’ Credited With a Pop in Sales

‘Share a Coke’ Credited With a Pop in Sales


From The Wall Street Journal:

How do you get Americans to drink soda again? Put their names on bottles and cans.

Coca-Cola Co. KO +1.01% ‘s carbonated soft-drink sales in the U.S. have risen more than 2% after the world’s most-famous beverage brand began labeling Coke, Diet Coke and Coke Zero this summer with names of individuals, from Aaron to Sarah to Zach.

The labels—which also included warm-and-fuzzy terms like “Friends,” “BFF,” and “Family”—were launched in the U.S. in June.

After falling 11 years in a row, Coke’s U.S. soft-drink volumes rose 0.4% for the 12 weeks through August from the same period a year ago, according to Wells Fargo, which cited Nielsen store-scanner data. Sales rose 2.5% in dollar terms. Over the same time period, soda volume and dollar sales remained negative at rivals PepsiCoInc. PEP +0.50% and Dr Pepper Snapple Group Inc. DPS +0.16%

Personalization is such a powerful marketing device. It seems even the old Coke dog can learn a few new tricks.

I found out personally about how strong an attractor personalization marketing can be, when Seth Godin’s book, Tribes, was released in 2008. Seth reached out to his social networks before the book was released, asking for avatars that might be included on the inside book jacket.

I, along with a few thousand other people, sent in our pictures. When the book came out, lo and behold, my avatar was in the upper left hand of the inside jacket.


And – unsurprisingly – I bought a copy of the book.

Well played, Mr. Godin. Well. Played.

Sure, who hasn’t been pitched a leather bound copy of Who’s Who in American Whateveritz?


Personalization works. Just ask Coke.




Last week, I started a series of posts (here, here, and here), on great marketing, with the proposition that a great marketer is essentially a great storyteller.

Today I want to discuss engagement; how to do it, and how not to do it.

You share photos with friends. You ask colleagues for professional help. You seek recommendations from trusted sources for a product you’re interested in. We all seek validation, support, help, guidance from people we know, love, and trust.

Engagement is the feedback loop, that will either reinforce these trusted connections – or will amplify all that is already wrong with your existing relationships.

I want to speak more generally about engagement, to probe it at its essence, rather than simply concentrate on the social media tools being used to drive engagement. Some of the following examples that I will use will certainly reference particular social media platforms, but this discussion isn’t meant to be a Pinterest “how to”, or a Facebook “how to”, or a Twitter “how to.”

I want to think about the thinking that did – or didn’t –  go into attempts at engaging customers.

Crisis Communications

Often, when engagement is discussed, it’s couched in a conversation about outreach to customers.

But what happens when your customers are reaching out to you? Or more specifically, what happens when your customers are reaching out to you in the midst of a major PR storm, or an on campus emergency, or a significant crisis, in which your brand is the responsible party?

One has to look no further than recent events in the NFL to know that crisis communications, handled ineptly, can sink the public perception of a brand.

But they aren’t the first to mishandle crisis communications.

I think most would agree that British Petroleum made a fair mess of their communications during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Domino’s Pizza did a less than stellar job handling the PR disaster following the release of videos showing employees doing disgusting things to food to be served to customers. And, arguably, the largest crisis communication debacle in recent memory has to be the case of the disappearance of the Malaysian Airlines flight over the Indian Ocean earlier this year.

Crisis communications never come when expected (hence, crisis communications) – all the more reason to prepare a plan for engaging a crisis, before it’s needed.

Every crisis will be unique. But in almost every case, to be effective and successful, a good crisis communication plan needs the following:

  • Accountability
  • Contacts to be Reached, First
  • Publicizing and Providing Access to Official Communication Channels
  • Timely Information Release
  • Transparency and Accuracy in Reporting Information
  • A Plan for Ongoing Updates until the Crisis Passes

Of these, keep the following attributes in mind: access, timeliness, accuracy, and transparency. You’ll be seeing them again.

Where you have seen major breakdowns in crisis communications, it almost always involves an absence of information, or conflicting information being released, or blatantly false information publicized.

PR Debacles

PR debacles are themselves, crisis communications. To be handled successfully, PR disasters should be addressed timely, accurately, and transparently. And, access to authorized spokespeople should be relatively straightforward.

The NFL over the past few weeks has failed on number fronts with this approach. The crisis there is still unravelling, with seemingly daily stories of how the league and the Ravens have tried to cover up the facts of the original incident, and the lack of proper oversight, judgement, and responsibility applied.

And, not meaning to continue bashing football culture, but Jameis Winston has been a one-man PR disaster machine for Florida State this past year. In an already overly long post, I’ll leave it to you, gentle reader, to further dive into this story of police corruption, administrators intent on keeping their Heisman Trophy winner playing at all costs, and a general don’t-care-as-long-as-we-win attitude.

Even big PR firms, that should know better, get it wrong – very wrong.

Again, a dose of authentic, timely, and accountable voice in a developing dialog means the difference between being viewed as sincerely speaking to the effects and aftermath of negative news, or being phony and untrustworthy. The failure for doing so is devastating to a brand.

Happy Thoughts

Let’s turn our thoughts to something lighter – how does one positively engage one’s customers, to best effect?

The answer, as it turns out, is precisely identical to how you handle crisis communications – by being authentic, timely, transparent, and accurate in your communications.

I will add two additional, vital ingredients: knowing your audience. And: never, ever, communicate on autopilot.

Let’s take a few more examples, from social media, showing how not knowing your audience, and putting your messaging in zombie mode, are recipes for disaster.

Back in 2012, McDonald’s paid for a Twitter promoted hashtag – #McDStories – that turned into a promotional nightmare. Instead of great stories about the brand, it turned into a litany of brand bashing and culinary calumny. Who could have predicted this would happen (hint: anyone who has been on the internet).

On the day of the Aurora, CO shooting, the NRA Twitter account tweeted “Good morning, shooters. Happy Friday! Weekend plans?”

And just this week, the Instagram account of Joan Rivers (who passed away September 4th), seemingly posted from beyond the grave, raving about what a badass her iPhone was.

Wait – Where are the Happy Thoughts Again?

Sorry – I got distracted. Long post fatigue is a thing.

The unquestioned champion of positive engagement is the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. The campaign connected friends, family members, colleague, and frenemies in a viral challenge that raised millions, and vital awareness, for their organization. It was positive, it leveraged latent support for social cause, and used video to push virality past all seen-to-date limits. How successful was it? About $100 million additional funds raised in the U.S.

Why was this campaign so successful, when so many other social media attempts at engagement are just – well – horrible?

Because it was personal. And it touched people, individually, by calling them out by name.

You don’t engage audiences. You engage people.

We become so enveloped with the idea of scale and reliable reach, that we forget that we are trying to influence individuals, not masses. Crowds are indeterminate – but individuals are identifiable, and reachable.

In short, you can’t shortcut your way to great engagement. It is a high-touch, and a high-cost, endeavor. Some may claim otherwise, but it’s not.

Otherwise, you’d have scores of Nordstrom’s, with their fiercely loyal customer base.

Costco seems also to be a company with it’s business heart in the right place, with regard to customers and employees.

So – What Makes Great Engagement?

I spoke last week about the need to be authentic, to build trust between our audience and ourselves.

Engagement is the mechanism by which digital trust is built, because it constitutes the very actions that our customers judge us by.

That’s it.

And I’m sorry I made you read so much, just to say it.

Tomorrow, I plan to wrap this series, with a (hopefully, much shorter) post on measurement.

What Makes a Great Marketer? Great Storytelling.

What Makes a Great Marketer? Great Storytelling.

By formal training, I am not a marketer.

However, I use marketing practically every day of my professional career: as an employee, as a manager, as a business owner, and even as a CIO.

  • As an employee (or potential employee, as the case may be lately), I constantly promote the brand of me. What is my value promise? What do I have to offer that is unique to me and to no one else?
  • As a manager, my direct reports need to understand the direction and leadership I supply. A strong, cogent, message is important in order to get everyone working – and continuing to work – in the same direction, with urgency, and with identical goals.
  • As a business owner, I tell – daily – the story of my business: what it is, what it does, how we are the best at what we do, and what value we provide to our customers.
  • And, as a CIO, it is vital that I communicate, internally and externally, ITs mission to the enterprise, and how we help the enterprise (corporately and on an individual basis) succeed, thrive, and plan for the future.

But how can all of this be marketing?

At its core, great marketing is simply great storytelling.

Each of the scenarios I described above involve telling a story, in the service of answering one or more questions; why should I be hired? why do I need to perform a task? why should I buy from you? why is what I do important to our enterprise?

And, to answer these questions successfully, we need to examine the following elements:

Over the coming days, I’ll take a look at these story elements – and how they are used by great marketers, to tell great stories.

Boiler Room Marketers – You’re Doing It Wrong

Boiler Room Marketers – You’re Doing It Wrong

Boiler Room Marketers – you’re doing it wrong.Boiler Room

Yesterday, I received an email from someone claiming their company was the “#1 education property on the internet.”

Aside from checking my phone to make sure the year wasn’t 1999, I had a good chuckle imagining the copywriting genius it took to compose that gem. Strike one.

As I read further, this person invoked the name of my boss (the president of our college) and referenced a letter he had FedEx’d him (“wow – would you look at that – a Western Union Telegram!”), in order to elicit a sales call with me on their product. For those playing along at home, we call this “strike two.”

Examining the missive even closer, I noticed that there were two different font faces (and sizes) where the person had cut and pasted the boilerplate into the message, but forgot to correct the capital “U” (where he started to type “University”, but instead wrote “UCollege”). Strike three. Next batter, please.

Look – we all have jobs to do. It’s a never ending “arms race” to get past gate keepers, and in front of decision makers. I get it. We all get it.

Pulling cheap marketing stunts (a FedEx letter? Really?) isn’t the way to endear your way into a bona fide sales call.

And, if you’re gonna cut and paste some horrific copy, please make sure that you at least get our / my name right and the style matches.

But – and for me, most importantly – don’t claim a relationship with people in my organization that you obviously don’t have (and can be checked with a text, email, or call – which I always do when someone makes a claim of a prior relationship).

Spotting amateur hour is an occupational hazard in any managerial position. At the very least, make it look like you’re trying.

Where Are Your Markets?

Where Are Your Markets?

I had a conversation with a friend today about the changing business of software services.  I’ll keep everything anonymous to protect the innocent.

Our conversation was basically about how one can no longer depend upon only those companies physically located nearby to fund ongoing development for small software contract services companies.

In traditional contract services, a software services company would approach or be approached by a company to develop software for hire for a specified cost (hourly or fixed) and for a specified deliverable or scope of work.  For most companies, this activity was geographically localized and software services companies tended to associate themselves with particular platforms (MS Windows, Novell, Apple, etc.).

That was then  THIS is now.

With the economy giving many hiring company the jitters, it’s especially tough for a localized software services company to find work and keep all of their employees “off the bench” (i.e., working on billable projects) – never mind that rising healthcare insurance costs and outsourcing have reduced margins on generalized software development projects.

In effect, for survival, companies that once depended on long lasting personal relationships with localized corporations are having to seek business beyond what was once a very comfortable bubble.

We certainly have been forced to do so.  In fact, I would say our business over the past twelve months has been about 90% outside of our local area (or international) and the remainder performed with companies in the greater Nashville area.

As cool as web development is, and as insular the echo chamber of social networking is, it becomes easy to lull oneself into thinking that social networking and web development constitute the be all and end all of software development today.  And that would be a mistake, because there is a ton of legacy and NEW desktop development ongoing today by armies of corporate developers and the software services houses that cater to them.  Getting entre to those companies and into the inner sanctums of the decision makers for these projects is tougher today, owing to the pressures listed above, and small software services houses simply have to cast broader and more diverse nets to get access to those opportunities.

Some obstacles to moving beyond a localized emphasis for these development opportunities and remote development opportunities are:

  • Finding a good fit with projects that are well specified and appropriate for remote development
  • Good management practices on both ends of the engagement that support and accommodate the remote development environment
  • Understanding that managing a geographically separated development team differs vastly from operating a development team in a collaborative or bullpen environment.

Immediately following 9/11, we had to significantly rethink our software services marketing strategy, because this was the first time that our company faced these pressures.  This became even more important to us when we were located in Florida during 2003-2005 and survived 3 hurricanes in six weeks.  If we had to depend upon local corporations solely, we would have died a sudden and inglorious death.

Doing business nationally and internationally today is worlds easier than it was when we started out back in 1996.  Tools for payment, such as PayPal, make it relatively straightforward to conduct business with people you may never actually get to meet in person.  In fact, I would say that accurately represents almost all of the business that I have done this year,with possibly one or two exceptions.

Business is not static.  Your views of your markets should not be, either.

Where do you fish?  Why, where the fish are, of course.

Where are your markets?

Are Resumes Necessary?

Are Resumes Necessary?

Seth Godin had a post this morning on Why bother with a Resume?

It got me thinking: in my professional life, spanning 1985 to the present, I have NEVER gotten a job as a result of a resume. Never.

That’s not to say that I don’t have a resume or that I have never submitted a resume. Simply that a resume in and of itself has never brought me to anyone’s attention nor has it been the tipping point that has been the deciding factor on a paycheck for me.

Resumes are the HR equivalent of flowcharts in the programming world; they are obsolete the moment they are written, and bear little resemblance to the object they purport to describe.

As Seth astutely points out, if you are remarkable as a person, a resume is entirely superfluous.

So – what is a better use of your time: to create a kick ass Resume, or to become Remarkable?