Coca-Cola didn't become a global brand overnight and it has had its share of marketing mistakes. However, its success offers a lot of insight to businesses looking to build a solid and successful brand.
When it comes to big brands that seem to get marketing spot on, Coca-Cola is one of the best. Considering Coke has been established for just over 130 years, it shows that it is doing something right with its branding, giving businesses plenty to learn from.
Coke's marketing is always noteworthy, exciting and fresh while still building on the brand's core values, ensuring that consumers know that an advert or piece of content is from Coca-Cola. Its take on branding has guaranteed that it has remained consistently popular for decades, even when it experienced a few slip-ups.
Companies looking for the best branding practices need to not look much further than Coca-Cola and here's why:
Consistency is king
While coming up with a fresh marketing campaign that will catch the eye is of vital importance to all businesses, this cannot override the need for consistent branding. Customers and prospects need to know that marketing is for a company, which requires certain aspects to remain the same, or at least very similar.
As Forbes explains, creating a "lasting imprint" on the consciousness of the consumer can take time, meaning that constantly changing branding approaches can have a detrimental effect. Not only has Coca-Cola maintained a similar script font for branding and its tell-tale red, all marketing features happy people smiling broadly and simple taglines.
Its brand is built on the idea of 'enjoying a coke' and this message is the one that is always hammered home, even as its product range changes and adapts to emerging trends.
Big changes can spell disaster
Although Coke's branding is usually strong, it has made some mistakes, which can be equally as important to learn from. It released New Coke in 1985 in a bid to take market share away from rivals, discontinuing classic coke in the process. The aim was to make the product and the brand more relevant to the time, as The Balance explains, but the change didn't receive the intended attention.
Despite a huge marketing campaign heralding the new formula, a lot of testing among focus groups and celebrity endorsements, this rebrand of a classic company came under fire from loyal consumers. The backlash was so great that Classic Coke was made available once more within three months - New Coke went on to be discontinued in 2002.
However, Coca-Cola learned its lesson, putting the marketing attention primarily on its Classic version and rebuilding its brand based on the more popular product and image. This goes to show that even putting a lot of money into branding doesn't guarantee success and that sometimes it is better to cut your losses and revert to a former offering or brand image.
Brand over product
One of the most successful ways in which Coca-Cola has marketed itself is that it puts the focus on the brand rather than its product. Coke is described as something that brings family and friends together, encourages sharing and brings happiness, rather than a soda.
Smartling highlights how beneficial this is for a global brand, which sells variations of its products and uses different packaging throughout many countries. Rather than a complicated marketing plan that focuses on the product, which would be difficult to implement, Coca-Cola sells the lifestyle that it strongly associates with its brand. This ensures that the brand is universal and understood across all cultures and languages.
While not all companies will operate on a global scale like Coke, they can still look at how to sell their brand as an experience rather than a product. Not only will this create an overarching idea of the business, it also ensures there is a core focus for future marketing, tying into the idea of consistency.
Although consistency is a huge part of Coca-Cola's brand identity, this wouldn't be enough to keep it on top for over 100 years. While Coke is built around the same positive experience as it was upon conception, it also remains modern and topical, making the most of popular culture to remain relevant.
However, the brand doesn't simply take a popular subject and replicate it, Coke's success comes from putting its own spin on a topic, while still maintaining the idea of it being all about sharing and happiness. Not only this, but it uses relevant trends from each of the countries it is present in, understanding that what is relevant for one culture may not be for others.
This doesn't just show the importance of having your finger on the pulse when it comes to issues within your industry and wider trends, it also highlights how important data-driven branding is. As PR Daily points out, data - such as that gained from social listening and analytics - tells you what your current or potential customer wants. This ensures you can build a brand that reflects this while also being completely relevant to the moment.
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