Coke’s CMO believes in selling sizzle AND sausage

It was refreshing to read in Ad Age that Coke’s CMO Marcos de Quinto believes in selling not only emotional ‘sizzle’, but also product ‘sausage’, by harnessing multiple media channels including TV, not just digital. Below I share some key points from his recent Beverage Digest conference presentation.

1. Tell a product story 

De Quinto seems to share the brandgym philosophy that marketing should balance brand values (sizzle) with product benefits (sausage), avoiding ‘sponsored entertainment’, where the brand plays a secondary role, not a starring one. “We are re-Coca-Colizing Coca-Cola. We are going to the roots of what made this brand big,” he stated. “If you want people to love to drink Coca-Cola, please show in your commercial people who love drinking Coca-Cola.”*

We posted earlier about the new ‘Taste the Feeling’ campaign, which seeks to tell stories with the brand integrated into the storyline. To illustrate the approach, Coke’s CMO showed an ad called ‘Break Up’ that debuted earlier this year (see below). This marked a big change from the previous campaign, ‘Open Happiness’, which “often pursued loftier concepts with the product sometimes playing a supporting role,” as the article stated. De Quito went as far as mocking an old ‘Open Happiness’ spot that “barely showed the product”.

*To note, I’m a fan of starring the product, but in ‘Break Up’ the Coke bottle is squeezed into almost every single scene … you can make the brand a hero without going quite this far!

2. Focus on one brand 

The “Taste the Feeling” campaign is part of a major strategic shift by Coke to take a “one-brand” approach, as we posted on here. Varieties like Diet Coke and Coke Zero will be part of a single global campaign, rather than running disparate spots. The visual identities of the different products have also been made more consistent, as shown below. This should reduce fragmentation and increase efficiency. The challenge will be having consistency, whilst having enough support to push the individual variants.

3. Use TV for reach and ROI

The article reported how de Quinto defended TV advertising as providing the best bang for the buck. TV is still “very, very critical for our business. TV still offers the best ROI across media channels.” He shared data from 2014 showing that Coca-Cola’s TV investment returned $2.13 for every dollar spent, compared with $1.26 for digital. We posted recently here on the role TV can still play as part of an multi-channel campaign to drive broad reach.

4. Do fewer, bigger digital initiatives

Its nice to hear that a man who controls a $3.9 billion budget shares some of our questions around the use of social media, and a belief that the bigger opportunity may be to harness digital to upgrade the customer experience as a whole. “We are very seriously trying to transform our company to make it a digital company, but it’s not just to put ads in social media,” he said. In perhaps the killer quote of his presentation he went on to say, “Social media is the strategy for those who don’t have a true digital strategy.”

In digital, focus is again key to Coke’s approach, with a drive to make it more efficient and less fragmented. “We are investing big amounts of money but probably not in the smartest way,” Mr. de Quinto said. He gave the example an estimated 300 apps worldwide, “but most of these apps, they have less than 50,000 users or 100,000 users. That is nothing,” he said. David Godsman, a former Bank of America executive, will lead “the digital transformation of global marketing around a single digital marketing agenda,” according to an internal memo from de Quinto.

In conclusion, it is encouraging that one of the world’s most important CMOs has a pragmatic approach to branding in a digital age, recognising the need for emotion, but to tell a product story, and the opportunity to use digital to transform the customer experience, not just to create social media content.