Written by Carmen Sigmund
In order to answer the in part one raised question, namely “How Does Coca-Cola Use Storytelling in its Content Marketing Strategy to Emotionally Connect with its Users?”, this second part will analyze the company’s strategy based on the revealed theoretical background in part one.
The Coca-Cola Company (hereafter called Coca-Cola) is often taken as best practice example of focusing on storytelling in its current online marketing activities (Pulizzi, 2012; Gioglio, 2015; Rose, 2012; Savut, 2013). In 2012, the company published its Content2020 strategy and re-launched its company website, from a corporate website towards a digital magazine, called ‘Coca-Cola Journey’ (The Coca-Cola Company, 2015).
Shortly after the relaunch, Coca-Cola released two YouTube videos explaining the new strategy behind the name ‘Content2020’. In several ‘chapters’, the videos explain the ideas behind the launch of this new Content2020 strategy, its path to realization and the matrix the company is focusing by involving in content marketing (Forward’s Marketing Channel, 2012). These two releases and the company’s website (The Coca-Cola Company, 2015), will be the basis for the following analysis.
Admittedly, one can believe in the success of the relaunch or not, as it can be dared to say that it might be rather subjective to define success in this context – even if Joe Pulizzi (2012), one of the content marketing gurus of today, says so. Nevertheless, based on the outlined theoretical concepts in part one, it will now be analyzed which keystones are implemented in the Coca-Cola Content2020 strategy.
What Are the Keystones of Coca-Cola’s New Content2020 Strategy to Emotionally Bond with its Consumers?
Firstly, when observing Coca-Cola’s new re-launched website (The Coca-Cola Company, 2015), it becomes more than clear that focusing on content by telling compelling stories is the key pillar in the Content2020 strategy. Actually, this new ‘digital magazine’ does not mainly focus on only providing company information or stakeholder relevant articles in a prominent way, but is rather offering various interesting articles. Being in line with revealed research, brand-related as well as unrelated stories are published on a continuous basis. As Brown (2013) reveals it too, the essence of this relaunch was to believe that “best content is social at the core, digital by design, and emotional” (p.1). This finding is strengthened by the impressive speech of Ashley Callahan Coca-Cola’s manager of digital communications and social media. At the BlogWell conference in 2013, she highly emphasized the brand’s current focus: “Great content was the driver behind this” (03:15) and “We [Coca-Cola] wanted this to be a dynamic magazine, a hub for our company content” (SocialMedia.org, 2014, 02:33).
Forming the second keystone, the published stories told on the ‘Coca-Cola Journey’ website (The Coca-Cola Company, 2015) are not only compelling by its nature, but they aim to be shared by the users. In contrast to the past where storytelling was performed in a one-way direction, it becomes clear that the company focuses on creating dynamic stories that are free to evolve during time. One proof for this is the integration of different social media icons in each content that allow users to share the stories on various platforms. In the first explanatory video, the company gives the reason for emphasizing on this. The company shows that the content should be ‘liquid’, as the overall goal is “to create ideas so contagious they cannot be controlled” (Forward’s Marketing Channel, 2012, 0:32). Moreover, articles and stories on the website are created in such way that they often link to other stories. As one explanatory video highlights, provoking conversations among users through storytelling is important as well (Forward’s Marketing Channel, 2012). We can note that the keywords here are engagement, multifacetedeness, spreadability. Coca-Cola uses the so-called water cooler test for all ideas before new content is published: “Does it answer the “Why should I care” test? Does it surprise you? Is it compelling with universal appeal? Is it being measured systematically?” These questions are raised when ideas come up in order to provide compelling content, all aiming at being interesting and narrative stories (SocialMedia.org, 2014, 04:52).
The third keystone of Coca-Cola’s content marketing strategy is the offering of stories that are categorized in different topics such as history, brands, sustainability or music, for instance (The Coca-Cola Company, 2015). Furthermore, it is remarkable that the mixture of categories seems to follow a certain structure. Actually, this observation is backed by the company’s representative statement by Callahan. In her speech in 2013, she outlines different metrics that revealed the three most interesting content areas: Food, company history and jobs. As a consequence, Coca-Cola is steadily aware of the current booming topics and thereafter continuously providing compelling, emotional and share-worthy content in these areas (being in line with the first two keystones) (SocialMedia.org, 2014).
Fourth, it is interesting to notice that the majority of the stories talk about personal and emotional stories about real lives. Be it brand-related or non-related content, all stories try to emotionally bond with its readers in order to strengthen its relationship. For instance, in the topic ‘culture’, users come across a love story of two persons both working in the Coca-Cola Company and today happily married with two kids (The Coca-Cola Company, 2015). This example does not only agree with the above-stated fact that emotions are key in content marketing, but also shows that the company focuses on the emotion that trigger most interactions, the feeling of joy (Eyl, 2014).
The fifth keystone that can be revealed in this analysis is connected to the latter keystone. It is the company’s intercultural awareness in creating its content for the website. When skimming through the articles, stories featuring people from different parts of the world catch the reader’s attention. Coca-Cola clearly focuses on showing stories from all over the world, regardless the country from which the website is visited from (The Coca-Cola Company, 2015). It is also worth to mention that the website is all in English and is internationally focused (SocialMedia.org, 2014). Another good example of this is the installation of the Coca-Cola Small World Machines in 2013. The idea was to provide interactive Coke dispensers that had real-time cameras installed where people could see each other. The dispensers were located in areas of conflict of India and Pakistan, aiming to unite people living in conflict. It was one of the most successful campaigns for the company so far (Savut, 2013). Once again, all these stories are shareable, compelling and evoke emotions.
Sixth, Coca-Cola allows users to directly interact with the brand and with other users. Actually, at the bottom of the front page, users are encouraged to upload their “moments of happiness”. The uploaded pictures and videos show impressions of life, what people make smile, in short, the “source of your happiness” (The Coca-Cola Company, 2015). Content may be brand-related or not. In the uploading template, users are asked to describe the picture and tell the story behind it. Giving users the possibility to directly share their own moments seems to be in line with the previous cornerstones, especially the second and fifth ones. Indeed, this is also in line with the above-mentioned theoretical findings that consumers should be integrated in creating stories in order to establish an emotional connection to the brand (Escalas, 2004 in Gensler et al., 2013). The research of fanpageKarma concerning the importance of triggering interactions through emotions and joy further supports this keystone’s relevance (Eyl, 2014).
What Coca-Cola’s Content2020 Revealed: The Seven Keystones in Content Marketing
All in all, the above-conducted analysis of Coca-Cola’s Content2020 strategy brought into focus that its practical implementation is based on key principles of the revealed theoretical concepts. Bearing in mind these above-mentioned concepts of content marketing, storytelling and emotions in marketing and the revealed impact shown by different research, the analysis of the company’s strategy leads to list seven imperative must-dos in storytelling, which simultaneously answer the initial question of how Coca-Cola uses content marketing to emotionally connect with its users.
By acknowledging today’s importance of storytelling, companies are advised to implement these in order to succeed in emotionally connecting with customers:
- Recognize storytelling as the heart of marketing!
- Create liquid, compelling and share-worthy stories!
- Know which topics are most powerful!
- Tell real stories!
- Use culturally relevant content to connect people!
- Give users the possibility to contribute to the stories!
Nevertheless, even if these seven keystones of content marketing seem to be the formula for recipe when it comes to emotionally bond with its users online, they have to be critically considered. First and foremost, it has to be emphasized that the previous analysis is based on a digital magazine website and keystones might not always be transferrable to other online marketing activities. Secondly, as already mentioned, the notion of good content is subjective and it can hardly be defined. Thirdly, when engaging in online marketing and consequently in content marketing, marketers have to be cautious about what happens on other online platforms, especially social media, concerning the target group’s interests. Lastly, being online always means to face the lack of control of its content. Marketers have to be aware of this risk and accordingly create their content and steadily observe the way of the content in its best way.
Concerning further research, even if we have shown that the Coca-Cola Company is in fact heavily using content marketing in its Content2020 strategy in order to emotionally connect to customers, the previous analysis was only based on this single case. Due to the lack of generalizability, it might be interesting to investigate in various other online marketing strategies in order to draw deeper insights from an effective comparison.
Ashley, C. & Tuten, T. (2015). Creative Strategies in Social Media Marketing: An Exploratory Study of Branded Social Content and Consumer Engagement, Psychology & Marketing, vol. 32, no. 1, pp. 15–27 Available at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com.ludwig.lub.lu.se/doi/10.1002/mar.20761/abstract;jsessionid=A92920559AAFD42590CD79BDF1FFDF8C.f01t01
Assurance Advertising (2012). Assurance Advertising , 13 November 2012. Current events in advertising: The Coca Cola Company Revamps Website To Resemble A Magazine Blog: Blog. Available Online: http://www.smallbusinessmarketingandadvertisinghelp.com/blog/current-events-in-advertising-the-coca-cola-company-revamps-website-to-resemble-a-magazine-blog/ [Accessed 15 February 2015]
Bagozzi, R.P. & Gopinath, M. & Nyer, P. U. (1999). The Role of Emotions in marketing, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, vol. 27, no. 2, pp. 184-206 Available at: http://eds.a.ebscohost.com.ludwig.lub.lu.se/eds/detail/detail?sid=a5279bea-2b34-4823-bd51-7743560307e9%40sessionmgr4005&vid=0&hid=4202&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWRzLWxpdmUmc2NvcGU9c2l0ZQ== - db=bth&AN=1715518
Brown, A. (2013). Coca-Cola Journey Unbottled, 11 November 2013. Every day is election day: Blog. Available online: http://www.coca-colacompany.com/coca-cola-unbottled/every-day-is-election-day [Accessed 13 February 2015]
Forward’s Marketing Channel (2012). Coca-Cola Content 2020 Initiative Strategy Video - Parts I & II. [Video online]. 7 February 2012. Available online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G1P3r2EsAos [Accessed: 13 February 2015]
SocialMedia.org (2014), The Coca-Cola Company: The Power of Coca-Cola Journey -- presented by Ashley Callahan. [Video online]. October 2013, Available online: https://vimeo.com/75348539 [Accessed: 13 February 2015]
Csordás, T. & Gáti, M. (2014) The New (Marketing) role of firms as Media Content Providers, Vezetéstudomány / Budapest Management Review, vol. 45, no. 2, pp. 22-32 Available at http://eds.b.ebscohost.com.ludwig.lub.lu.se/eds/detail/detail?sid=a2d59e79-0fd0-43e1-83c0-9d16cb2b71da%40sessionmgr112&vid=0&hid=127&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWRzLWxpdmUmc2NvcGU9c2l0ZQ== - db=a9h&AN=94465903
Eyl, S. (2014). Fanpage karma blog, 27 October 2014. How you can influence your fans with emotional posts: Blog. Available online: http://blog.fanpagekarma.com/2014/10/27/emotion-facebook-social-media-interaction/?sw=1 [Accessed 14 February 2015]
Falls, J. (2014). This Moment, 2 October 2014. 5 Tips to Creating Engaging Content | Stop Pulling Content Out of Your… : Blog. Available online: http://www.thismoment.com/content-marketing-blog/creating-engaging-content/ [Accessed 14 February 2015]
Forouzandeh , S., Soltanpanah, H. & Sheikhamadi, A. (2014). Content marketing through data mining on Facebook social network, Webology, vol. 11, no. 1, pp. 1-11 Available at: http://eds.a.ebscohost.com.ludwig.lub.lu.se/eds/detail/detail?sid=de7c5ae1-e6d5-48ce-a792-d5f2b7d6df50%40sessionmgr4002&vid=0&hid=4103&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWRzLWxpdmUmc2NvcGU9c2l0ZQ== - db=lih&AN=97497188
Gensler, S. & Völckner, F. & Liu-Thompkins, Y. & Wiertz, C. (2013). Managing Brands in the Social Media Environment, Journal of Interactive Marketing, vol. 27, no. 4, pp. 242–256 Available at: http://www.sciencedirect.com.ludwig.lub.lu.se/science/article/pii/S109499681300039X
Gioglio, J. (2015). Convince & Convert, n.d. Coca-Cola’s New Corporate Website Aims to Refresh the World Through Storytelling: Blog. Available online: http://www.convinceandconvert.com/social-media-case-studies/coca-colas-new-corporate-website-aims-to-refresh-the-world-through-storytelling/ [Accessed 13 February 2015]
Kietzmann, J. H., Hermkens, K., McCarthy, I. P. & Silvestre, B. S. (2011). Social Media? Get serious! Understanding the Functional Building Blocks of Social Media, Business Horizons, vol. 54, no. 3, pp. 241 – 251 Available at: http://www.sciencedirect.com.ludwig.lub.lu.se/science/article/pii/S0007681311000061
Lamoureux, D. (n.d.). Fluid drive media, n.d. Advertising: How many marketing messages do we see in a day?: Blog. Available online: http://www.fluiddrivemedia.com/advertising/marketing-messages/ [Accessed 15 February 2015]
Pulizzi, J. (2012). The Rise of Storytelling as the New Marketing, Publishing Research Quarterly, vol. 28, no. 2, pp. 116-123 Available at: http://eds.b.ebscohost.com.ludwig.lub.lu.se/eds/detail/detail?sid=cd9b75a9-5dae-4df2-8c9a-bd9d202c9e3d%40sessionmgr198&vid=0&hid=127&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWRzLWxpdmUmc2NvcGU9c2l0ZQ== - db=lih&AN=75063395
Rose, R. (2012). Content Marketing Institute, 4 November 2012. Brand Storytelling Lessons from the Content 2020 Project: Blog. Available online: http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/2012/11/brand-storytelling-content-2020-3/ [Accessed 13 February 2015]
Savut, M. (2013). Econsultancy, 27 November 2013. Coca-Cola's storytelling: three lessons on content marketing and creativity: Blog. Available online: https://econsultancy.com/blog/63884-coca-cola-s-storytelling-three-lessons-on-content-marketing-and-creativity/ [Accessed 13 February 2015]
Singh, S. & Sonnenburg, S. (2012). Brand Performance in Social Media, Journal of Interactive Marketing, vol. 26, no. 4, pp. 189-197 Available at: http://www.sciencedirect.com.ludwig.lub.lu.se/science/article/pii/S1094996812000217
Story, Louise. (2007). The New York Times, 15 January 2007. Anywhere the Eye Can See, It’s Likely to See an Ad: Blog. Available Online: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/15/business/media/15everywhere.html?_r=0[Accessed 15 February 2015]
The Coca-Cola Company (2015). Coca-Cola Journey. Available Online: http://www.coca-colacompany.com/ [Accessed 12 February 2015]
Van Dijck, J. & Nieborg, D. (2009). Wikinomics and its discontents: a critical analysis of Web 2.0 business manifestos, New Media and Society, vol. 11, no. 5, pp. 855-874 Available at: http://nms.sagepub.com.ludwig.lub.lu.se/content/11/5/855.full.pdf+html