Key marketing executives traveled to New York to unveil the campaign's successor, "Open happiness," which is rolling out across a variety of media this week. The first TV spot, "Two Guys," is set to break tonight during "American Idol."
Additional spots will roll out during next week's "American Idol," the Super Bowl and Academy Awards in the U.S. The campaign will touch some 200 markets globally, with rollouts staged throughout the first half of the year. "Open happiness" will encompass TV, outdoor, print and digital advertising, as well as point-of-sale materials.
The new campaign has both a high-minded purpose -- remind consumers of simple pleasures -- and a more practical one. Executives said "Coke side of life" proved difficult to translate across global markets and didn't provide a clear call to action. They expect "Open happiness" to remedy that.
"[We're] evolving our 'Coke side of life' communications campaign by including a stronger call to action in the tagline and also including a tighter overall strategic framework for the campaign," said Joe Tripodi, chief marketing and commercial officer.
Lost in translation
"In this splintered media world, I can't count on everyone seeing every spot in my campaign," said Katie Bayne, chief marketing officer for Coca-Cola North America. "And 'Coke side of life' really had a learning curve. It took time for people to get what that was about. 'Open happiness' very quickly relates to the wonderful attributes of that small moment of pleasure you get."
"Coke side of life," which originally was met with skepticism, proved popular during its three-year run, earning awards including a Cannes Lion. That's left some to question why Coca-Cola would leave a good thing behind. In response, executives say there is plenty of continuity between the campaigns. TV spots continue to close with a spinning contoured, red-and-white bottle, for example. And there is the continuation of the popular "Happiness Factory" series, with "Happiness Factory III" making its debut under the "Open happiness" banner.
The new campaign, created by Wieden & Kennedy, already includes at least three global spots, part of the company's efforts to unify its messaging across markets, as well as more than five North American spots. The commercials involve a variety of animation and touch on the broader themes of connecting over a Coke and satisfying a craving with a Coke.
Executives also said the messaging is right for this difficult economy. They said the company has been constantly surveying consumers and testing the work in a variety of markets throughout the nearly yearlong development process.
"Times are changing, and what people want and need right now is a time to pause and hit the refresh button, so to speak, and rediscover life's simple pleasures," Mr. Tripodi said. "We're not here to say Coke is going to solve the economic problems of the world or the Middle East crisis. Our view is that Coke is a small moment, a simple moment of pleasure in people's very hectic day. ... When you look back at the history of Coke, for a hundred years it's been that optimistic spirit. And that has certainly been reflected in the work."
Archrival Pepsi began rolling out its own optimistic messaging in December, leaving Coke to break the new campaign in its wake. But Coke executives point out that the "Open happiness" campaign is global and easily translates across cultures and languages. And, they said, Pepsi has been awfully quiet these past few years.
"We've been out there alone for a few years with the 'Coke side of life,'" Ms. Bayne said. "Finding our way forward again with the brand voice has been really exciting for us, and with the Cannes win on design, I think it really lit the fire under our competitor, in terms of the kinds of things that can be achieved. So we're glad to have them back. I think there were a few years where our competition ignored this category."
That comment follows remarks made earlier by Pepsi chiding Coke for following its recent lead. "Pepsi has always stood for the spirit of optimism and youth. It's great to see that our friends in Atlanta are finally cheering up," said Nicole Bradley, a spokeswoman for Pepsi. Peter Arnell, architect of Pepsi's new logo, said of Coca-Cola's campaign: "It's a wonderful moment in the history of Pepsi, and Coke is following us."
Another key component of Coke's new campaign -- and, executives say, a differentiator from their rival -- is a strong connection to products and point-of-sale materials. A 99-cent 16-ounce bottle will be rolling out nationwide in conjunction with the new marketing push. The packaging size has been tested in the southeast U.S. for about three months and is resonating with young consumers, Ms. Bayne said.
"Recruiting youth is pivotal to the growth of our business and our category, and this begins with the launch of a new bottle," she said. "Advertising is a wonderful messaging opportunity to remind people of the intrinsic values of Coke, but you must present this simple moment of pleasure in a package they want and at a price they can afford."