Coca-Cola’s Latin American division is earning its stripes as a key creative force in the digital age. In March this year, it launched "Crazy for Good", a global media campaign focused on real-life stories of random acts of kindness.
Capitalising on the post-recessionary flight to compassion and embracing the business ethos of "who cares the most wins", the corporate giant proved that it has its finger on the pulse of consumer trends.
Guido Rosales, the marketing force behind the brand’s Latin American division, explains how he is attempting to transform the world’s biggest soft-drink brand into one of the most committed content creators.
Does Coca-Cola Brazil have its own creative culture?
We don’t have a different [creative culture] in Latin America; we have put in place the right processes and strategy over the past five years. If you have the best creative talent, but not the right processes, you will not achieve a consistent result. Now we have a consistent integrated marketing strategy with clear decision-making processes, and more skills and responsibilities for our marketers.
How do you strike the balance between local and global marketing? When you have to appeal to all consumers, are you at risk of reaching none?
We have a portfolio of global brands, and, as a company, our main goal is to build brands. To make these brands relevant we have to make them both global and local.
With Coke we focus on delivering optimism to the world, and being in 206 countries we have to think carefully about how we reach this goal in each one. How we make our message relevant is key, so this is why we need people on the ground who understand the market.
In practice, on a global level we have a strategy in place, but each market has to adapt to its local business objectives. The business needs for each market differ. We realise that when you have a campaign that is relevant you don’t particularly have frontiers or borders in the social and digital environment. You cannot contain a local communication – if it’s strong and relevant, it will travel across borders.
What impact does your relationship with agencies have on your creative culture?
One thing we do not talk about is agencies. I don’t want to be a client, I want to be a true creative partner. I want to build solid relationships based on trust. To do this we have a "partner mantra". I don’t only want the best creative talent; we need to have trust, integrity and respect. Without that integrity you cannot have a partnership. If [agencies] have built that integrity and respect, we can incorporate new talents from across our business.
Some agencies have expressed concerns over the changes to your remuneration processes, how are you adapting to this?
Commitment and accountability is key to us. We don’t just want a great creative idea, it has to deliver across multiple touchpoints. We make our partners accountable; if the campaign fails to reach its targets, then we will pay less.
Some were sceptical about the remuneration model, so we cut our relationship with those who couldn’t make it work. But we have been learning and improving on the model. We didn’t get it right straight away, but after five years we feel we have a good model.
After analysing it we are making some improvements, the main one being improving the process. If a campaign becomes bigger, or more time is needed, the agency needs to raise its hand and ask for more compensation.
The two key points for us are to be more transparent in the process and to adapt the model to meet our social and digital content requirements. Five years ago we didn’t factor in paying for content, but now we have more content than ever being developed. At the moment we are incorporating more flexibility into our process to meet these needs.
How have you adapted your marketing focus to meet the challenge of the rise of social and digital media?
Two years ago we didn’t have the right processes in place to listen in to the conversation, but now we have the tools that we need to plug into social media. As soon as we started listening we saw we could leverage the conversation and provide information to the people. If we can see there is an issue with a product, we can step in immediately, with the right tools in place to take an active stance in that conversation.
You talk about "the content era", but how do you strike the right balance between creating your own media channels and investing in existing platforms?
It is not easy to achieve that balance, and right now there are too many social-media companies fighting for a share of attention. YouTube can be my ally, but we are also competing for attention. Sometimes we will be reaching consumers on our own channels, while at other times it will be about asking our consumers to share and connect.
At the moment only 2%-5% of brands are really connecting with consumers. The challenge is how do we create content, connect and influence pop culture? This is the new way of marketing.
You are the Cannes Lions Creative Marketer of the Year. How relevant is an advertising festival to you, or do you need to spread your net far wider?
If you want to be market leader, you need to meet your business objectives, but that is not enough if you want to be a brand leader. You need to innovate and create a virtuous cycle of positivity and creative communications, and that is what we strive to do.
We don’t want to go to a festival, win a Lion and think that’s enough to make everyone happy. You have to achieve your business objectives. It is not about luck, it’s about having the right strategy and process in place.
Coca-Cola’s "Dictionary of Creativity": The content era
Content is key to Coke’s marketing strategy, and as well as investing in social-media channels the brand has launched its own media platforms, Coke TV and Coke FM, across Latin America. "It takes time, but people need to start believing that in the content era this is the way we are going to reach people," explains Rosales.
"We have brought to the table the right people to develop our content and social-media strategy. We are also developing more processes to distribute and develop content. It was difficult to go out to our markets and ask them to put money behind content initially, but our investment is working," he adds.
This strategy lies at the heart of Coke’s creative output and is based on a drive to create "a positive, virtuous cycle of creativity". "It is not about destroying an idea, it’s about working with our partners honestly. We don’t want to have discussions, we want to have conversations," explains Rosales.
Over the past three years, Coca-Cola has strived to introduce processes to drive what it calls "liquid ideas" businesswide. According to the brand, these ideas will spread across consumer touchpoints. "Liquid ideas is all about conversations," says Rosales. "When we develop a liquid idea it has to be provocative and relevant, and you won’t be able to contain that idea."
Innovation has been singled out as the key marketing pillar for Coke over the next year. "Innovation is at our core and all our marketing regions will invest more in innovation over the next 12 months," says Rosales.