So where does it go from here? Having moved well beyond the cola
wars and determined to boldly double revenue in 10 years, Coke is
positioning itself as the embodiment of happiness. "If you're able
to own that emotion in people's mindspace, that 's a very powerful
thing," said Chief Marketing and Commercial Officer Joe Tripodi.
"It's fertile ground. They'll look back and say it was a very smart
place to own."
WINNING THE COLA WARS
So far, it's looking like a pretty good bet. Coca-Cola reported
worldwide volume growth of 6% in the first quarter, with earnings
jumping 18%. Volume at brand Coca-Cola grew 3% during the quarter.
And in 2010, brand Coke maintained its No. 1 ranking, while Diet
Coke surpassed Pepsi to become the No. 2 soft drink in the country,
according to Beverage Digest. While Pepsi famously declared that it
had won the cola wars amid the 1985 New Coke debacle, Coke is
firmly on top now.
The company is coalescing around management's 2020 Vision, which
involves doubling system revenue and more than doubling servings to
some 3 billion per day. It's a daunting goal, considering it wants
to do in 10 years what it took nearly 125 years to accomplish.
"We need to remain very humble and extremely hungry," said Mr.
Tripodi. "We're not resting on our laurels for even one minute. The
worst thing for companies is when you start believing your own
Mr. Tripodi, however, said the idea of winning the cola wars
doesn't provide the motivation it once did. "We believe strong
competition makes us better and strong competitors make us better,"
he said. "The notion of the cola wars is less relevant. And that 's
not how we rally the troops here."
Still, he said he doesn't think "the story is written on cola
yet." The company sees huge opportunities to grow colas, and the
business as a whole, around the world in the next decade. Teen
recruitment will be particularly important, as the company follows
"There was a time [a decade ago] when we walked away from teen
recruitment and probably lost a generation of drinkers," Mr.
Tripodi said. "Parts of the world lost confidence in cola as the
engine of growth. We've gotten that back in a big way. …When
you look at the massive opportunity in so many huge countries in
the world, that 's what energizes us and why we believe cola is
still at its very early stages."
EXPERIMENTING WITH COUPONS, COLOR TV AND
Key to success will be continuing to break new ground on the
marketing front. In the fourth quarter, Mr. Tripodi says there will
be a "big, powerful promotion" and "amplification of the brand as a
media channel." He declined to comment further.
Early on, Coca-Cola was at the forefront of experimenting with
new media channels and marketing concepts. In the 1880s, the brand
was the first to introduce couponing and direct-mail campaigns, and
in the early 1960s it was among the first to experiment with color
TV ads. This decade it has dominated Facebook, ranking as the
most-popular consumer brand, with nearly 26 million likes.
The emergence of Facebook, in particular, has led to a shift in
thinking at the company. It now talks about earned, shared, owned
and paid media. That shift has allowed the company to "step back
and look at how we fully leverage the assets we have: the brand,
properties, customer relations," said Mr. Tripodi. "We've always
done paid well, but we've got to innovate on the edge. …
These two new areas: earned and shared. That's where we see some
It's taken some time for that conversation around earned and
shared media to evolve, however. The company learned a lot from the
Diet Coke-Mentos experiment in 2006, Mr. Tripodi said. A video of
Mentos causing Diet Coke to shoot out of bottles in geysers went
viral, leading to global news coverage. Originally the company felt
the stunt didn't fit the brand's personality. But it got over it
and embraced the coverage. As recently as last year, the company
teamed up with the video's creators, EepyBird, for a Coke Zero
Similarly, when a Coke fan page was flagged by Facebook in late
2008, the company engaged the page's owners, rather than playing
hardball. In a stroke of social-media savvy, it flew the two fans
to Atlanta and hashed out a plan for the page's future. At the time
the page had about 3.3 million fans. Today it has nearly eight
times that .
"Five, six, 10 years ago, I think the company was probably
struggling with that ," Mr. Tripodi said of embracing social media
and the idea that the consumer, not the company, owns the brand.
"When you're managing and stewarding the most valuable brand in the
world, it's a challenge."
ENVISIONING A GLOBAL BRAND
Indeed, Coca-Cola has been rated the most valuable global brand by
Interbrand for more than a decade. It's an accomplishment that
would have made former president and chairman Mr. Woodruff proud.
One of the first declarations made by Mr. Woodruff was that
"Coca-Cola wasn't constrained by American geography," said Phil
Mooney, VP-heritage communications. "He felt that Coca-Cola was a
global brand. As early as 1926 he formed a group dedicated to
creating a business in countries outside of the U.S. So, it's not
surprising that in 1928 we had our first appearance at the Olympics
More than 80 years later, Coca-Cola is still sponsoring the
Olympics, and it's more global than ever. Its newly refined global
approach was on display in 2008 during the Beijing Olympics, when
the company embarked on a 60-country marketing blitz. Commemorative
packaging rolled out in 150 countries. The effort marked the
introduction of a more global approach for the brand, which has
trimmed its agency roster from 82 creative shops around the world
to about 30 and now aims to create campaigns that can be
For example, in 2009, Coke ditched "Coke Side of Life" for the
more translatable "Open Happiness." That campaign touched nearly
all of Coca-Cola's 206 markets in the first half of 2009. And the
most recent Christmas campaign had 90 countries adopt the entire
"The Olympics in Beijing really said to everybody that there are
a lot of similarities around the world," said Mr. Tripodi. "We want
to create a culture of people getting out of their silos. One of
Coke's greatest advantages is its scale. But if you have 206
markets operating in silos, you de-scale the operation. That does
not mean that everything you create in headquarters gets pushed
around the world. [It just means] there are opportunities for that
Mr. Tripodi said the company has adopted a process in which
markets typically adopt 70% to 80% of a marketing program, meaning
the remainder is customizable. "Everyone can find what I would
consider to be the increasingly narrow differences between people,"