Integrated Marketing Communications: Coca-Cola

Integrated marketing communications is the bare necessity for communicating a solid statement to a company’s chosen demographic. However, in today’s media-driven world, it is absolutely necessary to go beyond the marketing plan and consider options that may have been considered “out of the box” 20 years ago. In 2013, it is the only way to truly capture an audience’s attention, and the only way to hold it. Coca-Cola’s “Open Happiness” campaign is a prime example of a company going above and beyond by using a variety of marketing communication alternatives to get their message out to consumers.

In 2009 Coca-Cola launched their “Open Happiness” campaign, following a long trend of associating their product with being happy. However the twist with this particular campaign is how far beyond the usual points of contact the company has gone. The campaign began with Coca-Cola hiring a consulting firm, Starlight Runner Entertainment, “to consult on a 60-second commercial called, ‘Happiness Factory,’ which depicted tiny creatures living inside a Coke machine.” (Once Upon a Soda 2013) Over the course of a year, the consultants from Starlight Runner Entertainment created a Happiness Factory “bible” using transmedia storytelling that held every minute detail of the world within the vending machine, from the various places you could visit, to the in-depth characters that lived there. Once the world was created, the concept was built into a franchise not only using traditional TV commercials, print ads and radio commercials, but also video games, apps and social networking campaigns.

            One thing that makes Coca-Cola unique is that they do not have only one set audience that they need to reach. The demographic of Coca-Cola includes people of all ages, genders, nationalities, religions, sexual preferences and current states of mind. In short, they are marketing to the entire world. They have done a good job of that historically, building relationships with their consumers through various campaigns promoting joy and happiness, two things that people all across the globe want. When the “Open Happiness” campaign was launched in 2009, it was a time when the world economy was suffering severely and the company’s sales were dropping as a result. Promoting happiness at a time of economic crisis when people are generally feeling more “down” than usual was a way to boost consumers desire to spend money on Coca-Cola products, and it worked, boosting sales by 4% (Once Upon a Soda 2013).

Being such a successful company on an international scale means that Coca-Cola has more stakeholders than most companies have to worry about. Coca-Cola products are bottled in almost every country, and the countries that do not have bottling plants import Coca-Cola products from nearby nations that do. It is also a public company, so the stockholders have to be a primary concern when making decisions that affect sales and profits. Finally, the vendors who sell and stock Coca-Cola products along with the consumers who buy and drink them are directly affected by the company’s communication strategies. When coming up with the “Open Happiness” campaign, Coca-Cola would have to take into consideration why this particular campaign would motivate consumers to buy the product, and this would have a direct impact on the various vendors (both big retail brands and smaller family owned shops). In regard to this particular campaign, stakeholders were affected in a positive way because sales increased, and on a global scale Coca-Cola improved their relationship with their consumers. (Wells 2011)

As a brand Coca-Cola has a really strong relationship with its consumers, which has resulted not only from a great product, but also from years of successful marketing campaigns. Choosing to launch the “Open Happiness” campaign at a time when its consumers needed a boost in spirits was beneficial to both parties, and reflects Coca-Cola’s history of using happiness and joy to reflect their brand. Doing so also reminds consumers that Coca-Cola is always there for them, even in times of trial. As an almost one hundred and thirty year old company, Coca-Cola has shown its longevity and strength, but has also maintained that relationship with consumers by reflecting on the brands past campaigns from time to time, and always sticking with a similar theme. (Coca-Cola Animated Short Reveals the Secrets to Happiness: The Coca-Cola Company 2013)

One thing that lets you know that Coca-Cola is a strong brand is the fact that its packaging and logo is so recognizable. Almost everyone in the world recognizes the scripted Coca-Cola, in white on red lettering, and just as recognizable is the image of the bottle. Maintaining these logos is and has been essential to the brands longevity, and one thing that Coca-Cola does well is altering their packaging for campaigns without losing the familiarity and integrity of their brand. In the case of the “Open Happiness” campaign, cans of Coca-Cola were slightly altered to show not only the traditional scripted Coca-Cola, but also images of the characters from the “Happiness Factory”. Over the holiday season in 2011, Coca-Cola also ran a sales promotion called “Unwrap Holiday Cheer”, which offered opportunities to win prizes when consumers purchased twelve-pack cans of Coca-Cola products. This packaging alteration enticed consumers to buy more packs of their product, and also continued to build the brand’s association with joy and happiness. (Coca-Cola Open Happiness Holiday Giveaways! 2013)

This particular case study incorporates nearly all of the aspects of IMC. The advertising included a series of print ads and television commercials. One of the centerpieces of the “Open Happiness” campaign is a series of television advertisements, ranging from the original concept of the world inside the vending machine and the happiness that goes into bringing consumers their bottles of Coca-Cola, to various images of happiness, for example being at the beach with friends (Coca-Cola launches ‘Open Happiness’ campaign – mUmBRELLA 2013). There is also a sequence of short films showing the world of the “Happiness Factory”, and the characters that live there (from the “bible” that Starlight Runners Entertainment created). (Experience the Great Happyfication 2011) For print ads, there have been a variety of creatives produced, such as one from Berlin, Germany that slightly altered the Coca-Cola logo to create a smiley face. (coca-cola open happiness campaign wins 2 iF gold design awards 2013)

The television ads and YouTube videos that Coca-Cola created for the “Open Happiness” campaign all use a common musical device; at the beginning or end of the commercial or video, there is always the same sequence of notes played. These notes are crucial in linking the videos together and ensuring all aspects of the campaign are harmonious. The notes are also played at the beginning of the music video for “Open Happiness”, for which Coca-Cola brought in Cee-Lo, Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump, Gym Class Heroes’ Travis McCoy, and Janelle Monae. With this use of music, Coca-Cola once again shows the importance of going above and beyond the typical marketing plan and finding other points of contact to consumers. (Music + Ads: Coke’s ‘Open Happiness’ 2013)

Being such a large, influential company means having a lot of responsibility to its consumers. One current issue Coca-Cola chose to pursue with the “Open Happiness” campaign is recycling. In Singapore they set up the Recycle Happiness Machine, which rewarded people for recycling with gifts such as flowers or Coca-Cola collectibles and products. Coca-Cola also produced a video in collaboration with the band Absentee that shows the life of a plastic Coke bottle when it is recycled, and the various other Coca-Cola products that can be created using the recycled PET plastic bottles. This video is available on the OpenHappiness YouTube channel, which is also run by Coca-Cola, and is another example of the social media outreach associated with this campaign. (Recycle : The Life Story of a Coke Bottle 2009) In tandem with the recycling theme, Coca-Cola has also approached the subject of reducing obesity. As a soft drink company, it could potentially be argued that Coca-Cola is partially responsible for the recent increase in obesity, but the brand has approached the social issue by creating a series of YouTube videos and TV commercials that show how many calories are in a can of Coke, and then presenting a variety of “happy activities” you can do to burn off those calories, such as dancing or laughing. (Coca-Cola Continues Obesity Rebuttal With New TV Commercial 2013)

In today’s age of technology, social media is now an essential part of any creative marketing campaign. Through what AdAge calls Coca-Cola’s “biggest social media push yet”, three people in their twenties will be travelling the world as ambassadors for Coca-Cola, with the task of capturing moments of happiness world-wide. (Digital: Behind Coca-Cola’s Biggest Social-Media Push Yet 2013) The ambassadors will be posting their findings to Facebook and Twitter, and company executives will be monitoring the public’s interest in these posts. This is another example of the ways brands need to go above and beyond their traditional IMC campaigns.

In summary, an iconic brand like Coca-Cola has a long history of using marketing communication tools to relate to their consumers, advertise their product, build an outstanding reputation for their brand and to essentially ensure that their brand is a familiar household name. By coming up with a transmedia foundation to their campaign, they created a solid launch pad to take their creative campaign global, expand it, and yet still have the association of the initial campaigns. The “Open Happiness” campaign has successfully brought more recognition to the brand and has also increased Coca-Cola’s reputation as a “good” company through their efforts to promote issues that affect our society today.

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