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Coca-Cola exec: Mastery of beacons, mpayments is crucial in 2016

NEW YORK ? A Coca-Cola executive at Mobile Marketer?s Mobile FirstLook: Strategy 2016 claimed brands that continue perfecting mobile-first advertising, location usage, payments and beacons will be noteworthy this year, with Coca-Cola leveraging all to perfect the art of storytelling on digital.

During the ?Coca-Cola: Marketing in a Mobile World? session, the executive discussed the beverage marketer?s top 2015 mobile efforts, which included being part of the introduction of SmartLabel packaging on products, beacon rollouts in developing markets and NFC-enabled vending machines. He also advised other brands to develop strategies that include mobile advertising, beacons, location and payments as they ponder best practices for 2016, underscoring the wide opportunity for round-the-clock marketing on connected devices.

?Those who are assembling those links and stringing them together are going to be making news,? said Tom Daly, global group director at The Coca-Cola Company. ?You have to think about how physical assets augment your digital program.?

Cementing mobile foundations
As mobile increasingly becomes consumers? sixth sense, marketers must ensure they are allotting an appropriate portion of their budgets to this potentially lucrative channel. Coca-Cola spent much of last year collecting data for SMoX research, an initiative led by the Mobile Marketing Association.

A campaign advertising Coca-Cola?s Gold Peak Tea brand saw approximately five percent of the budget assigned to mobile, which ultimately fueled six percent of sales. In hindsight, Coca-Cola may have wanted to implement a higher mobile budget, proving the sheer potency of marketing on smartphones.

Another campaign, centering on the Chinese New Year, focused on purchase intent, images and sales. Mobile video ended up outperforming television during the campaign, and was twice as effective in fueling sales (see story).

This has prompted Coca-Cola to consider mobile as a top advertising channel ? and one that deserves its own set of specific strategies.

?In telling stories, your mobile device is different than your PC, which is different than your TV,? Mr. Daly said. ?We saw contributions to sales outsize the [mobile] investment we made.

?In the early quarter of 2016, we?re going to get smarter and smarter about the role and impact of mobile advertising.?

Mobile can also be used to educate consumers about products, a notion that Coca-Cola took seriously in 2015.

The ?Share a Coke? marketer, alongside The Hershey Company, wanted to update the consumer packaged goods sector's approach to on-pack mobile by rolling out SmartLabel QR codes that promote ingredient transparency and provide quick access to brand representatives (see story).

The company came together with 30 other manufacturers to develop a way for consumers to understand what ingredients rest beneath the packaging, a tactic that could be effective in driving sales among health-conscious individuals.

Consumers can scan the QR Code with their smartphones to view a glossary of ingredients, nutrition facts and allergens, or directly contact the manufacturer with questions. The real value that this offers to shoppers has prompted Coca-Cola to continue rolling out the codes on packages over the next year.

?I knew this initiative was going to really start being pervasive and ubiquitous in the lives of consumers,? Mr. Daly said.

Beacons and payments
One key mobile strategy is turning proximity into access to more consumers. Coca-Cola recently deployed approximately 500 beacons in downtown Atlanta that are able to send passersby targeted information to their mobile devices. But the brand did not stop there.

It has also experimented with beacon rollouts in foreign markets including Vietnam.

?This isn?t just a developed market phenomenon; we are actively exploring how to leverage beacon technology in all aspects of our business,? Mr. Daly said.

Beacons are especially enticing for CPG marketers, or brands that have physical goods to sell. Using welcome offers and relevant incentives are among the best practices for leveraging location-based technology, especially as consumers become less wary about receiving unprompted push notifications or messages.

Another sector in which Coca-Cola made strides last year was mobile payments. The brand enabled more than 100,000 vending machines to accept NFC-based payments, meaning that consumers can pay for a Coca-Cola beverage by holding their device to the contactless reader.

The company is among one of the top acceptors of mobile payments. The inexpensive price of its products makes it an ideal fit for this type of commerce, as consumers are likely to engage in an impulse purchase of a soda, but may not have any cash or credit cards on their person.

?This was a pivotal moment in 2015 and [it] really sets the stage for 2016,? Mr. Daly said.

He also posited that there is a war on physical cash, meaning that marketers must think beyond traditional payment methods, especially as invisible and pervasive computing continues to gain steam this year.

While Coca-Cola?s 2016 outlook includes a greater focus on mobile advertising, beacons, payments and location, it also contains a massive effort to find new ways of storytelling on smartphones. Augmented reality and virtual reality could become exploratory areas for the brand, with Mr. Daly naming a recent New York Times campaign, in which readers could use Google Cardboard to watch a story come to life, as an incredible experience.

?How you tell stories versus what stories do for societies will change,? Mr. Daly said.