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Coca-Cola wants to create ‘a big TV moment’ with Christmas ad focusing on kindness

Coca-Cola has launched its 2023 Christmas ad, which focuses on “kindness” rather than being product-centric.

‘The World Needs More Santas’ hinges on the idea that through acts of kindness, anyone can embrace their inner Santa. Kindness is one of the brand’s “core values”, Islam ElDessouky, trademark Coca-Cola global creative, strategy and content lead, tells Marketing Week, who notes it has been a guiding principle for the Coke brand for some time.

Back in 2013, Coca-Cola launched a campaign called ‘Kindness goes Viral’, following its ‘Share a Coke’ initiative.

The brand felt this was a particularly relevant message during the holiday season, and therefore, wanted its Christmas campaign to embody the same values.

Coca-Cola “doesn’t shy away from talking about product” though, ElDessouky stresses. The brand does this across many channels, including ecommerce, online and even at times on TV, such as through its campaigns celebrating pairing Coke with food.

However, at Christmas ElDessouky says the brand wants “to tell a story” and highlight more human narratives and values, rather than putting product front and centre.

The brand has a long association with Christmas and Santa Claus. Its iconic ad ‘Wonderful Dream (Holidays are Coming)’, featuring Coca-Cola Christmas trucks and Santa himself, first aired in 1995. Despite being decades old, the ad consistently performs well against more modern ads from other brands in testing.

In fact, Coca-Cola has been the second-best performing festive advertiser of the last three years, according to System1. The firm awards all of the year’s festive ads a ‘star rating’ between one and 5.9 as a predictive indicator of its brand-building ability. Coca-Cola has averaged 5.6 in the ranking over the last three years.

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In the UK last year, Coca-Cola decided not to create a second ad and only ran Holidays are Coming.

This year both Holidays are Coming and The World Needs More Santas will play in the UK. While many brands might be happy with one festive hit, Coca-Cola sees the launch of this new ad as an opportunity to further connect with consumers.

“Despite [Coca-Cola] being so iconic and so entrenched in culture and festivities, we try to learn what is needed, what can we tap into?” ElDessouky says.

The Coke brand won’t try to play a role in every occasion though. He notes the marketing team thinks carefully about whether opportunities to connect with consumers are consistent with its values and history.

In the case of Christmas and Santa Claus, Coca-Cola has built “the permission” to tap into this area with new festive campaigns as well as keeping its Holidays are Coming creative going, he says.

Coca-Cola drops Christmas brand campaign to focus on ‘Holidays are Coming’

The power of TV at Christmas

In the Coca-Cola Company’s most recent results call, CEO James Quincey said how the business invested its media spend had changed in the past few years. In 2019, Coca-Cola invested less than 30% of its total media spend in digital channels. The company is now spending more than 60% of its spend on digital channels.

Quincey acknowledged that young consumers, and Gen Z in particular, are shunning traditional TV and instead watching other forms of media. With its altered media mix, the company is hoping to more effectively reach this demographic.

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“The way we do marketing keeps evolving because we keep a pulse of people. People are changing, their needs are changing,” says global marketing lead Elif Kaypak.

I think some moments still deserve to have a big TV moment.

Islam ElDessouky, Coca-Cola

While Coca-Cola is investing more in its digital channels, it has made a major investment in TV through the launch of this campaign.

“I think some moments still deserve to have a big TV moment,” ElDessouky says. For Coca-Cola, Christmas is one of those, as are other occasions such as Ramadan, and the Super Bowl in the US.

On these occasions, more people are tuned to their TV than average, meaning it makes sense for the brand to tap into that.

The campaign also includes a quiz, inviting consumers to find their “Santa archetype”, something which they can then share on socials.

A shift towards increased spending on digital channels has been one aspect of a wider “transformation” of Coca-Cola’s marketing. Another element of this has been changing its marketing approach from being “one way”, where it directs messages towards its consumers, towards being more two-way and “human-centric”.

This means being more interactive with consumers, taking cues from them on social media and in real life to learn how the brand can best reach them.

“The more you humanise yourself as a brand and open the window for people to talk to you and engage with you… then you’re going to get better at building this relationship and the love for it is going to get bigger and bigger,” says ElDessouky.

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The success of The World Needs More Santas will ultimately be judged by its ability to drive the metric of ‘weekly plus’, which means how many people are consuming Coke on a weekly basis.

Coca-Cola looks to drive both “brand love” and weekly plus consumption through its marketing. ElDessouky does not see any contradiction in striving to inspire both love and more commercial goals.

“The company at the core says we want to refresh you and make a difference,” he says, repeating the company’s overall business purpose.

He notes that aiming to refresh consumers is “intrinsic” in what it does but it also strives to make a difference; for example, by inspiring acts of kindness.

The World Needs More Santas falls under the ongoing brand platform ‘Real Magic’, which was launched in 2021. While Coca-Cola has been activating under the platform for two years now, ElDessouky notes the brand is really “only starting” with the platform.

There are many ways in which Real Magic can be brought to life, and the brand does not intend to scrap the platform anytime soon, he says.

“We are a brand built by giants before us,” he says, adding that consistency is key. While the “how” changes for the brand, the “what” remains consistent in terms of the overall messaging Coca-Cola aims to convey, he says.

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