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Coca-Cola scores event marketing trifecta on mobile with #MakeItHappy campaign

Coca-Cola is leading the way in leveraging mobile for live event marketing with a strategy that created unique engagement opportunities before, during and after this year's Super Bowl game to build momentum for a happiness-themed campaign. 

However, in a reflection of the potential pitfalls for brands with viral social media campaigns, Coca-Cola suspended the campaign yesterday afternoon due to the brand accidentally Tweeting out several sentences from Adolf Hitler?s Mein Kampf. Through Wednesday afternoon, the campaign asked consumers to continue spreading optimism in the world by replying to negative Tweets on Twitter with the #MakeItHappy hashtag, prompting the brand to create cheerful online artwork out of the messages received in an attempt to boost spirits.

?The #MakeItHappy message is simple: the Internet is what we make it, and we hoped to inspire people to make it a more positive place,? said a spokeswoman for Coca-Cola. ?It?s unfortunate that Gawker is trying to turn this campaign into something that it isn?t.

?Building a bot that attempts to spread hate through #MakeItHappy is a perfect example of the pervasive online negativity Coca-Cola wanted to address with this campaign.?

Viral campaign
The campaign was cut short after a prank from Gawker led to the beverage brand turning the autobiographical manifesto?s ?Fourteen Words? slogan into a cartoon dog made of ASCII lettering code. To prove that the brand was not monitoring the text of the negative messages, Gawker reportedly made a Twitter bot designed to Tweet lines of Mein Kampf using the #MakeItHappy hashtag, which did create art comprised of words from the manifesto.

Whenever a social media user posted a pessimistic or downtrodden message, Coca-Cola encouraged a friend to Tweet #MakeItHappy back to them. Coca-Cola then created a happy image with a cartoon character or smiling object and posted it on Twitter in an effort to turn the negativity around.

Coca-Cola has pulled the ASCII art, and is instead putting emphasis on the existing ?Smile Petition? on Instagram. The #MakeItHappy television spot will continue to run, and the brand is encouraging consumers to spread happiness via GoMakeItHappy.com.

?I think this campaign aligns with Coca-Cola?s happy-go-lucky branding,? said Esha Shah, manager of mobile strategy at Fetch, San Francisco. ?Coke often uses bright colors to convey a positive message.

?This campaign seems to be aimed largely at a younger audience: early twenties, teens, and pre-teens. Coke wants to appeal to the next generation in order to stay relevant to a younger audience.?

Users can also participate in the brand?s ?Smile Petition? on Instagram, where consumers are asked to upload a personal photo including them smiling and making a hashtag hand sign. Posts must include the #MakeItHappy hashtag, and may be aggregated onto a separate Web site, GoMakeItHappy.com.

Several celebrities have gotten involved in Coca-Cola?s campaign, with National Football League player Michael Sam uploading his smiling picture onto Twitter and Instagram with the designated hashtag.

?There is a lot of planning that goes into creating a complete campaign around a Super Bowl ad,? said Shuli Lowy, marketing director at Ping Mobile, New York. ?Any company running a Super Bowl ad typically focuses not just on the commercial slot itself but also on the pre and post commercial experience.

?Coca Cola?s actionable post-ad steps are the perfect example. Instead of just sharing a commercial that talks about happiness, the brand is making an effort to use the attention it?s garnered to make the Internet a happier place,? she said.

?This has, undoubtedly, extended the life of the campaign.?

Maintaining momentum
While leveraging buzz from live events is imperative for food and beverage marketers, as it yields opportunities to reach new potential customers, Coca-Cola stayed one step ahead of that strategy by rolling out the campaign prior to the Super Bowl ad, and having planned digital spills after the ad aired during the game.

The brand saw over 196,000 hashtag mentions.

?Super Bowl advertisers typically invest a lot in the creative conception and execution for a Super Bowl ad,? Ms. Lowy said. ?The ad will get a lot of attention so they need to make sure that it is mind blowing and memorable.

?Because so much work goes into building a superb creative, brands will often work to extend the life of the creative itself. This will include distributing it through their social media outlets as well as distributing it further in post-game ad campaigns.?

In the week leading up to the Super Bowl, the beverage brand released seven short films including three teasers for the big commercial and four online-only clips featuring teens and celebrities, such as Mr. Sam and race car driver Danica Patrick, discussing their experiences with online negativity or bullying.

Coca-Cola also teamed up with DoSomething.org to leverage the organization?s large community of young adults to spread the importance of positivity on the Internet.

The overall campaign ties in with Coca-Cola?s purpose, therefore making it an authentic experience for consumers. While its efforts were planned in advance, marketers seeking to capitalize on live events with plenty of conversation on social media channels should have teams ready to respond in case a mobile moment happens to pop up.

A Twitter executive recently advised brands to be equipped to anticipate spontaneous moments that can then be turned into organic experiences with the potential of going viral (see story).

?Other food and beverage marketers can learn from this campaign by also trying to appeal to and connect with younger generations,? Ms. Shah said. ?Younger generations? familiarity with your brand keeps your brand relevant.

?The campaign is very simple, using a simple hashtag, #MakeItHappy, to create a viral marketing campaign. Coke?s #MakeItHappy Smile Petition on Twitter is a good way to get young people posting selfies while tweeting about the Coca-Cola brand,? she said.

?It is a smart strategy to start a social media campaign before a major ad because its gets a buzz going, then, when the ad is released, it already feels familiar. Encouraging viewers to keep talking about the ad by tweeting #MakeItHappy and posting pics allows Coke?s message to saturate the Internet conversation.?

Final Take
Alex Samuely is an editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York