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05 October 2011

Coca-Cola's Wendy Clark on social, mums and doubling revenues.


Coca-Cola’s desire to double its revenue is now driving its social media marketing effort and its quest to get the buy-in from the female keepers of the fridge. Cream was able to talk to Wendy Clark,

Back in 2009, Coca-Cola set itself the target of doubling its revenue by 2020. In real terms that equates to 3.2 billion Coke servings sold daily. What the brand has achieved in 124 years, it aims to double in less than 10.

Coca-Cola had early success using social media. An official Facebook page with more than 33 million fans and nearly 350,000 followers on its English language Twitter account are testament to the brand’s popularity in the social space. And 2011 has been an exciting year as Coke rides high on the prestige, and PR, of its 125-year anniversary. The celebration neatly chimes with the brand’s new marketing manifesto that Coca-Cola content should always be ‘liquid and linked’.

111909-WendyClark Wendy Clark, SVP integratef marketing communications and capabilities

Wendy Clark, senior vice-president integrated marketing communications and capabilities, has spent a great deal of 2011 presenting the idea of ‘liquid and linked’ content on the conference circuit. “It’s liquid because all the content and all the stories have to go to the furthest points,” she explains.

“There are so many ways to connect with consumers; all our content must be liquid. But if that content becomes disconnected to the brand, then it’s not doing any good, so it has to be linked.”

Coke’s plan for including women, specifically mothers, in its liquid and linked content strategy is now central. Understandably, she says, mums are “absolutely” an important consumer group. “Mums are just as important as teens. Mums are keepers of the fridge. If we don’t build credibility with them, the product never makes it into the house. We can build all the brand love we want with teens, but they won’t have access to the product at home.”

Shifts in the landscape and a broader communication set mean that Coke can talk to mums in more effective ways. Clark explains: “We’re looking at owned, earned, shared and paidmedia, and we’ll look at mums through all those lenses. We recently invited about 20 ‘mummy bloggers’ into Coke to spend two days with us. We were very transparent with them. We told them about our sustainability initiatives and we even talked to them about what’s in our products.”

Such initiatives are essentially trust-building exercises, proving to mums that real people work at Coca-Cola too. “I got asked on the panel if my kids drink Coca-Cola, and it’s good to have these conversations – by the way the answer’s yes!”

Clark’s experience as a mother brings her own insight into Coke’s global campaign, especially when talking to the modern mother with a busy work/life schedule.

It is a topic on which Clark has strong views: “I think that maintaining a balance is a false goal. I detest the notion that I keep my life in check and my work in check. I love both but for different reasons. Technology and newworking practices like flexible hours mean it’s possible to be successful at both, although I haven’t yet figured out how to use the Blackberry and wash hair at the same time.”

For Clark, being a mother brings another lens through which to view a marketing strategy. “I know what it is to be awake in the night with a kid with a fever and then have a meeting with the chief executive in the morning. I can feel if our work is too gratuitous, or if it’s trying to buy too much into the ‘superwoman’ ideal or playing to the stereotypes.”

She continues: “The brand can only gain credibility with mums by understanding women. I wouldn’t say that Coke has it cracked yet, but we’re constantly striving to do better.”


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  • Right Brain, Left Brain sums up the dichotomy of a media business that’s constantly battling with the challenge of delivering a profit and discovering new ways to communicate to consumers. The Cream editorial team combined with a dream team of industry pioneers from around the world share their expert opinions.

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