Coke's VP marketing Europe: 'It's about authentic stories, not powerful people with big cigars'

Coca-Cola Europe's vice-president of marketing, Javier Sanchez Lamelas, explains how the brand bypasses European differences with stories that have a moral takeaway.

Coca-Cola Europe's vice-president of marketing, Javier Sanchez Lamelas
Coca-Cola Europe's vice-president of marketing, Javier Sanchez Lamelas

The problem with talking about "Europeans" as one group is that they have been fighting each other since the Romans. The Italians were all over Europe at one point; the Spaniards did the same, the French, then the Brits, the Germans, the Nordics.

The countries within Europe have more differences than those in other regions around the world. However, the way we’re working in Europe is very cohesive – the collaboration is outstanding.

We tend to run our marketing programmes through commonalities; human values are pretty much universal. If you go to the movies to see Shrek, for example, then French people, Germans, Spaniards and Brits laugh at the same jokes.

You are not going to run marketing through differences, or tailor-made specific issues for that country, as, frankly, that’s an overcomplicated, expensive and ineffective way of doing it.

It may feel as though most of Coca-Cola’s marketing is coming from Atlanta, but more than 80% of what we run in Europe is locally made.

Collectively we deliver the marketing materials for our brands and programmes. We put that together into the "marketing box" – marketers can select which marketing programmes best fit their needs and the local market.

Good creative ideas are timeless. We ran a campaign in Latin America and Spain about five years ago called "Reasons to believe". When I came to Europe, I asked why they hadn’t used that campaign. They said: "We’re not sure about when or how to use it."

We ended up launching the campaign in January this year. London did an exceptional job. If you look at the in-depth work the team did to bring that campaign to life, it was extraordinary.

This was an example of using the same creativity, same insight, but at a different time.

Great creative is everywhere. Good books are an incredible source of inspiration for creativity, as are quotes and the lyrics of great songs.

If you look on YouTube at "Security cameras from Coca-Cola", the story of that piece of creative is fascinating.

I was talking to Martin Mercado (creative director of that campaign). He said: "I have a beautiful idea that I think we should do for you. We’re going to get footage from security cameras from around the world. But we’re going to wear the goggles of Coca-Cola, of togetherness, of universality, of doing something good for other people, for enjoyment of smiling. And that will be how Coca-Cola looks at the world, through security cameras."

The film went to San Sebastian first, then to Cannes, where it won several awards. It reached the head of Americas through his daughter, who had seen it online, and from there it went to TV in North America.

It’s about authentic stories; stories that have a moral takeaway, human values that convey emotions. This is what we’ve been doing with the World Cup trophy tour. It’s about showing people doing something for others in difficult times.

What you’re definitely not seeing from Coca-Cola is a global World Cup campaign with big superstars promoting big stadiums or powerful people with big cigars. We will not do that. It’s about local communities.


UK & Ireland

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The Netherlands

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