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5 Lessons in Multi-Channel Marketing from Coca-Cola

In today’s always-on culture, multi-channel marketing has grown to mean a lot more than just assigning a hashtag to a print campaign. Brands are cold calling, direct mailing, emailing, tweeting, search engine optimizing, blogging, and a whole lot more. Multi-channel marketing has become second nature to most of us.

As Taylor Chadwick wrote on Adobe’s digital marketing blog, “Multi-channel marketing in 2015 – it’s not rocket science.”

At the 2015 ClickZ Live New York Event, Coca-Cola’s Social Media Director, Sustainability, Tim Goudie, shared the creative and strategy behind Coke’s latest sustainability campaigns, which include promotion of a new plant bottle developed to be more sustainable than the original plastic bottle and a campaign built to empower women around the world to own sustainable businesses.

Regardless of what you think of the brand, or whether you sell to businesses or consumers, you can’t deny that the marketing magnates at Coca-Cola have mastered multi-channel.

“A well-executed multi-channel cam­paign is the dif­fer­ence between suc­cess­fully enabling your con­tent to stand out and be seen, or risk being lost in the noise of today’s com­pet­i­tive mar­kets.” -Taylor Chadwick, Search Marketing Manager, Adobe

So what can we learn from Coca-Cola about multi-channel marketing?

1. Tailor your content to your channel and your audience.

Channel-specific content is the meat and potatoes of a multi-channel approach, but audience-specific content is the real differentiator between relevant and off message content.

To introduce the Plant Bottle, Coca-Cola constructed a series of creative pieces aimed at spreading awareness of Coke’s sustainability efforts.

On their sustainability site, the brand directed academic, government, and NGO partners, as well as anyone who wanted to learn about the program from a desktop, to watch a four minute educational video with approachable animations and detailed product descriptions.

“If you think a millennial is going to use their hard-earned cellular data to watch a four-minute product promotion on their phones, think again.” – Tim Goudie, Social Media Director, Sustainability, Coca-Cola

On their social media channels, where the brand directed on-the-go millennials and mobile visitors, Coca-Cola created a sixty second physics demonstration inviting views to “see bottles differently.”

Rather than designing a single user flow and the accompanying creative to match each stage, Coca-Cola designed multiple user flows and crafted content around target persona rather than stage in the buying cycle.

It’s tempting to think first about the desired outcome of a campaign and design the user flow accordingly, but starting with an audience and then integrating a user flow gives your buyers the power to reach decisions on their own.

2. When you don’t have the budget to create, curate.

It’s absurd to think of any branch inside Coca-Cola having a limited budget, but such was the case for Goudie’s team when tasked with building content to promote Coke’s new plant bottles.

With no resources to produce high production value video content to fill their hungry social media engine, Coke sidestepped an expensive content production campaign and relied on a tried and true marketing tactic: the power of human storytelling.

Coke asked branches and distributors of Coke products around the world to created empowering stories with their own agencies.

For the 5by20 Program, designed to reach women around the world with life-changing stories around the power of owning retail businesses, Coke supplies coolers, beverages, and other essential goods so women can get their businesses off the ground.

To spread the message to women around the world, Coke promoted the story of Preeti Gupta, a shop owner in Agra, India:

3. Test first, then double down.

With a limited budget, marketers have to know which content pieces perform best before throwing their entire budgets into them.

When you’re running multi-channel campaigns, the same content isn’t going to perform the same way across every channel. You have to know which content engages the audience before you invest heavily in it.

To figure out which stories perform best on social media, Goudie’s team starts small, then doubles down:

  1. Put $100-$200 behind 5 or 6 pieces of creative
  2. Post the creative
  3. Measure results in 24 hours
  4. Invest the rest of the campaign budget in the top performing creative

4. Don’t skimp on targeting software.

After taking pains to design a user-specific content flow, enlisting local storytellers to capture local culture through content, and growing an understanding of how your target audience behaves on every channel, you have to follow through with adequate targeting.

“The most important part of social – and paid social specifically – is your ability to target the right consumer with the right message.” – Tim Goudie

When Coke implemented a new targeting strategy on Facebook in 2014 after an entirely organic posting strategy driven by guesswork, the brand saw significant lift in traffic driven by specific keywords. Coca-Cola increased the engagement and amplification rate of their Facebook posts, but perhaps more importantly, simultaneously increased the percent of Facebook engagement driven by the visitors with the highest likelihood to convert into page fans.

5. Don’t underestimate the power of video content.

Video content lies at the center of every Coca-Cola campaign. Whether you like it or not, Coca-Cola is one of the world’s leading marketing brands, and continues to set global marketing standards, which today include leading with video content on all digital channels.

Looking to plan multi-channel campaigns but no idea where to begin? We recommend this campaign planner from Percolate, which is brimming with useful worksheets on how to get started.

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