Interview Transcript

How do you look at how Coca-Cola tap into that emotional or psychological side of, not just providing a beverage for your physical needs, but bringing people together, driving happiness, get that feeling from the brand? How do you see that they approach that, over the years?

There were so many. First of all, there were unbelievable amounts of great leaders at that company and the ability to attract great talent. We could have a whole other interview on attracting talent, because I think that’s the unlock of anything that we’re talking about. Coca-Cola has the ability to do that and so do many other great companies out there, right now. Coke understood what it did. Think about a simple Coke. It’s uplift, it’s caffeine, it’s bubbles and the inherent qualities in that. But then they give you more than a physical uplift. They give you an emotional uplift. Then this idea of sharing it with others, takes to an entirely different level. The fact that it can be the same for everyone; it’s so democratic and accessible. So this idea that they can bring the world together. Few things can do that. So few things can be so for all of us.

Coke had a way of doing that, generation after generation. It was people before us, my generation of marketers, that left a legacy and you felt an enormous responsibility to carry that on. Because that is so timeless, the need for uplift, the need for connection, those can stand up, but the way you do that, has to remain timely. I think Coke really has a way of getting that balance right.

One thing I’m always curious about with big brands, like Coca-Cola, is how do you really target consumers, when everyone is your consumer?

You’re even seeing this today, with Coke and outside of Coke. You see brands who understand who their consumer base is. Walmart. Walmart understands exactly who it’s talking to and I think that’s a good example. Coke is great example that knows its core consumer. It is for everyone, but we also realize that there’s formative years, in our teenage lives, where we’re going to start to make choices about our repertoires. This is very true in spirits, and we can talk about that in a minute, as well. But you collect a repertoire of brands. It’s based on the brands in your home and the brands in your life.

We know that your first baseball game, your first football game, all of those moments are great moments to collect these brands in your life. What brands come into your home is another way you’re going to form those relationships; I really think is how to think about it. Coke knows those critical formative years, but it also knows that you’re going to move on in your tastes and your palate and your needs. Therefore, you are going to consider moving from, potentially, a Coke as you know it, to a no-sugar Coke. You may move onto a Powerade when you’re playing sports. Those brands have occasions. Coke really understands how the brands and the consumers are matched to occasions. They do an incredible job with that. That’s the core. You will never be able to be for everyone, truly, in every way. But by being for your core set of consumers, you will do a beautiful job of attracting those that are, maybe, on outer circles. But you have to be for someone. Brands stand for and up for someone.

Going back to those formative years then, when you’re approaching those target customers. Is it about placing your brand, in those moments, to connect with that young consumer? In those happy moments, at sports games, with their families? How do you really make that a formative experience, in those years, for the customer?

Think about yourself and whatever age you’re at. You know you spend your time and we ensured we know how our consumers spend their time and what was meaningful to them. What were they passionate about? I think, at the end of the day, when brands build relationships, it’s like human relationships. We build relationships by having shared values and things that we care about that are in common. It’s about being there and being in those moments and being in those occasions and being in those places that represent our values. That’s another really important one, for any brand. Just because your consumer may be there, if it doesn’t match your value system, you have to be careful, as well, to not just be everywhere your consumer is. You also have to be, where your consumer may be, but where it also matches the values and what you stand for. That’s really a universal truth about brand building. Brand building is about relationship building.

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