Coca-Cola marketing director: FMCG brands must lead the charge on recycling
A view from Aedamar Howlett

Coca-Cola marketing director: FMCG brands must lead the charge on recycling

Encouraging consumers to adopt sustainable attitudes to packaging is not just the right thing to do, but offers opportunities for forward-thinking marketers, writes Coca-Cola's marketing director for Great Britain and Ireland.

Over the last year, there has been a huge focus on plastic litter and its effect on the environment. As such, companies like Coca-Cola, who produce such packaging, have been thrown into the spotlight.

We’ve done a great deal over the years to use less packaging, support recycling and reduce litter. Our marketing strategy has been an important tool in demonstrating to our consumers and stakeholders all we have done and are doing to tackle this growing issue – like most people, we don’t want to see our bottles end up as litter.

But this year we think we can do more and we are committed as industry leaders to take the lead.

In February this year, we announced globally our commitment to collecting and recycling a bottle or can for every single one we sell, by 2030, as part of our #WorldWithoutWaste initiative. This is a tall order and one that can’t be answered by marketing alone.

However, I think that there is a real opportunity for our marketing to go one step further and use the power of our brands to encourage, and most importantly, help people to recycle more.

The use of marketing to instill behaviour change is something we’ve had success with. The launch of Coca-Cola Zero Sugar, for example, led to the rise in consumers opting to buy low or no calorie colas, with marketing playing a vital role in helping consumers to make informed choices.

Engaging consumers around the importance of recycling is at the heart of Coca-Cola’s commitment of being a model industry partner in every market in which we operate around the globe.

I believe it is my job to bring the values of Coca-Cola to the fore and use the power of our brands to instill a behavior change in recycling and drive sustainability.

This is a critical focus for me and my team. By using all our touchpoints – whether on social media, above the line, through our partnerships or on our packaging – in a way that demonstrates leadership, we can begin to influence consumer behaviour when it comes to recycling our bottles.

Our desire for change was first seen last summer when we launched Coca-Cola’s first-ever TV ad aimed squarely at encouraging people to recycle our bottles.

Dubbed "Love story", the set was made entirely of recycled plastic bottles. Creatively, it brought to life the story of two plastic bottles which fall in love over and over again, every time they are recycled and made into new bottles.

Since "Love story", we’ve committed to including a recycling messaging at the end of every one of our TV ads, something that was first seen in 2018, as part of our latest Coca-Cola Zero Sugar advert, "First taste".

We’ve also recently changed the message on our bottle caps to remind people to recycle the bottle and we’ll continue to expand this across the portfolio this year.

We also thought about how we can make our existing activities work harder in this area, but do it in a very "Coca-Cola" way.

For example, last year, we used our summer festival sampling to bring a recycling message and experience to more than six million people – encouraging them to recycle in an environment that has had a bad reputation for litter.

Our new approach also allowed us to think differently about the content we create and how we can partner with influencers to reach a wider range of consumers on the issue of recycling – whether that be young adults or parents who want to change their families’ recycling habits.

Last year, for the first time, we took YouTuber Jake Boys and mummy blogger Honest Mum and their audiences behind the scenes of our production line and recycling facilities to be transparent about our efforts and the challenges we face, to show first-hand the lifecycle of our bottles.

The engagement levels exceeded our expectations, and we will create more partnership-led content like this throughout 2018.

To be a leader in tackling plastic waste, and live and breathe our #WorldWithoutWaste ambition, we need to ensure our words are consistently followed up with credible action.

For example, all our packaging must be designed with recyclability in mind, from our lids to our labels. This goes for all our drinks, including the new brands we are launching this year, such as Adez and Fuse.

The moves we have already made are only part of Coca-Cola’s journey to tackle the issue of plastic waste. We have a lot in the pipeline, this year, to build on our current engagement successes and take us one step closer to our #WorldWithoutWaste initiative ambition – collecting and recycling one bottle or can for every single one we sell, by 2030.

Aedamar Howlett is marketing director, GB & Ireland at The Coca-Cola Company and a member of Campaign’s Power 100.