Coke at 125: Lessons all brands should heed

Jack Blog

May 3rd, 2011 By Jack Morton

The Ad Age cover story on Coca-Cola’s 125th anniversary includes a fascinating interview with Phil Mooney, VP of “heritage communications”—responsible for leveraging Coke’s vast archive as the huge brand asset it is.

There are some great lessons to be gleaned from Coke’s archive that all brands should heed:

Lesson #1: Make a commitment to your brand.

Coca-Cola has topped Interbrand’s Best Global Brands list for over a decade. That achievement reflects a commitment to making the brand the core of the business from the earliest days—reflected not only in perhaps the world’s first million-dollar advertising budget (in 1912) but also the direct involvement of company leadership in marketing strategy. 

Lesson #2: Don’t be afraid of ceding control to consumers.

Early on, the brand spent time and energy telling consumers not to call them “Coke,” a nickname invented by consumers but resisted by Coca-Cola. The brand chose to embrace consumers’ shortened name—and the positive impact on the brand should be a lesson to those marketers today that are overly resistant to consumer brand input.

Lesson #3: Create experiences that fit into consumers’ lives.

Early Coke “ads” were trays, calendars, posters, pocket mirrors—things that were relevant and welcome as part of consumers’ daily lives. Today’s brand apps that make life easier or richer, that delight consumers just for the sake of it, play a similar role.

Lesson #4: Embrace change.

Coke’s archive reveals prescient moves across the media of the 20th century, from print to broadcast, and an openness to change that is reflected some terrific recent experiences that defy neat definitions, from the 2010 World Cup K’naan “Wavin Flag” anthem to the “happiness machine.”