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Coca-Cola’s mobile update of iconic campaign is a summer win

Coca Cola

Coca-Cola took its iconic campaign featuring singers on a hilltop and updated it via a more personal, mobile-focused experience, resulting in one of the most successful campaigns of the summer. 

Nostalgia marketing is a perennial favorite because, when done well, it enables a feel-good connection between a brand and consumers’ fond memories of the past. While some brands’ efforts have mostly fallen flat, Coca-Cola, by updating its marketing strategy for a mobile-savvy consumer has driven an 11.8 percent brand lift since the campaign launched, according to Networked Insights’ data. 

“Coca-Cola’s ‘Share a Coke’ campaign does seem to resonate with a younger audience,” said Daniel Neely, CEO of Networked Insights. “People are talking about it online frequently, and a remarkable 45 percent of consumer sentiment is outwardly positive with only five percent being overtly negative, according to our metrics. 

“This shouldn’t come as a surprise,” he said. “Young, mobile-savvy consumers are inclined to snap a photo and share it when they find their name on Coke bottles. 

“A fun, visual campaign demands consumers to share on social media. In terms of engagement and share of voice, ‘Share a Coke’ is winning the summer campaigns.”

Feeling nostalgic

There is no shortage of brands appealing to a feeling of nostalgia in their marketing efforts. 

Several years ago, Pepsi introduced Throwback line of retro sodas replicating the labels and formulas from the 1970s. However, this summer the brand has been replacing the Throwback line with sodas labeled as having “real sugar.”

Last year, Miller Lite brought back the “it’s Miller Time” tagline as well as introduced retro packaging. 
The trend continues this summer.

“Other nostalgic ads have not fared so positively,” Mr. Neely said. “Blue Plate Mayonnaise and Abbvie also launched nostalgic ad campaigns recently, but there has been little to no social conversation surrounding them.”

A still from Coca-Cola's 1971 hilltop ad

Authentic experiences

For nostalgic marketing to resonate with today’s consumers, brands need to consider the role that mobile plays throughout a consumer’s day and the significant way it has changed expectations as well as operations such as supply chain management, manufacturing and more. 

The Coca-Cola Share a Coke campaign picks up from the brand’s iconic 1971 ad featuring people on a hilltop drinking Coke and singing the song “I’d like to buy the world a Coke.”

That idea has been updated to encourage consumers to buy a Coke with their own name on it or buy one for a friend with his or her name on it. 

The success of the effort lies in its ability to create authentic-feeling experiences for consumers. 

“Nostalgic advertising alone is not what is resonating with the younger, more mobile-savvy consumers,” said Douglas Rozen, chief innovation officer at Meredith Xcelerated Marketing. “Rather, it's when brands who are using nostalgia are doing so to be authentic.  

“Today's hyper-connected consumers are craving for brand authenticity,” he said. “Smart brands are finding ways to use nostalgia as a means to be true to who they are by connecting the past to the present.” 

Empowered consumers
To remain authentic when updating a nostalgic campaign, brands should find ways to empower the consumer.  

“Ten, 20, 30 years ago, brands did not have to worry about two-way, consumer involved marketing,” Mr. Rozen said.  

“Today, the hyper-connected consumers demand involvement and the best campaigns are those that empower consumers to be a part of the content creation,” he said. 

Coca-Cola brought its Share a Coke campaign to the United States for the first time this summer following its success in other countries. The program swaps out the brand’s logo for popular names on bottles of Coca-Cola, with consumers able to scan a QR code to send a coupon.

Consumers can also personalizes their own virtual bottles and share them via social media and use the campaign’s hashtag, #ShareaCoke, to share stories and photos while having a chance to be featured on billboards and online.


Coca-Cola is using mobile in unique ways to promote the Share a Coke program in other countries.

In China, the company has put lines from popular songs on bottles of soda, allowing for on-demand access to content and creating a shareable experience via popular social application WeChat (see story).

In Britain, the program will feature up to 1,000 personalized bottles, a mobile optimized Web site, a digital application for tracking down bottles with specific names, social video and digital content (see story). 

The human touch
When done well, nostalgia resonates with today’s consumers because it harkens back to a less-digital time. 

The idea is to create the feeling that a human element is involved somehow. 

“This type of nostalgia is about bringing back the human feel to an increasingly polished and digital world – even stepping back from digital to revisit things and experiences that feel crafted and show the touch of human hands,” said Dave Lewis, group director of strategy at Organic

Mr. Lewis points to the popularity of Instagram and Lomography – a photo style and community dedicate to analog photography – as examples of how a non-digital feel can resonate with consumers. 

But, in order for such efforts to be successful, they need to include an element of participation. 
 
“As brands consider tapping into the past, they can celebrate the aesthetic and style, but also should look for ways for millennials to actually participate,” Mr. Lewis said. “Just retelling the story only gets so far.  

“Give them the tools to express themselves, to participate in something that could feel like a more human version of the brand experience,” he said. 

Final Take

Chantal Tode is senior editor on Mobile Marketer, New York

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Associate Editor Chantal Tode covers advertising, messaging, legal/privacy and database/CRM. Reach her at chantal@mobilemarketer.com.

 
Related content: Strategy, Coca Cola, hilltop ad, Share a Coke, Networked Insights, nostalgia, Daniel Neely

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