How Coca-Cola shared a Coke with its employees

An external marketing campaign can be a great chance to get employees closer to customers as well as enhance brand loyalty internally. Aligning your internal and external communication and activities can have huge impact, but how does it work in reality?

CokeThe Share a Coke campaign has been everywhere I look – from congratulating the Royal Family in newspaper ads on their new arrival, to my brother giving me two bottles of Coke the other week – one with my name and one with my husband’s (pictured).

It’s a campaign that appears to have captured the nation’s imagination; I’ve certainly never taken a photo of a bottle of fizzy drink before and even found myself keeping the name labels to put on the pinboard in our kitchen.

My experience appears to echo those of people around me as my personal Facebook timeline has been filled in recent months with friends and family sharing photos of their names on bottles.

To give you a sense of the numbers, the Share a Coke campaign has happened in 34 markets, in 34 languages and featuring 4000 names.

But what has it been like for employees of Coca-Cola? Here Sam Boniface from Headlines reports on how Coca-Cola engaged its employees right at the start of its European Summer promotion ‘Share a Coke’.

Sharing is caring

coke_1In May, more than 800 people across multiple capital cities in Europe took to the streets to sample Coca-Cola as part of the brand’s innovative ‘Share a Coke’ campaign. But these weren’t actors or PR specialists – these were Coca-Cola employees from across the entire business.

Acting as brand ambassadors, they had a unique chance to interact directly with their consumers by sharing an ice-cold Coca-Cola in their local communities, and they grasped the sampling opportunity with both hands.

Teams of associates from the North West Europe and Nordics (NWEN) region spent the day in six cities – Copenhagen, London, Dublin, Rotterdam, Brussels and Paris – sharing more than 145,000 cans of Coca-Cola, Diet Coke or Coke Zero with passers-by, before celebrating with colleagues at informal barbecues in the evening.

So what was it that drove them to be such a big part of the initiative?
According to Head of Brand PR Joan O’Connor, the opportunity to meet customers face to face was an incentive in itself.

She said: “One of our company’s strongest assets is our people and developing a compelling, engaging and fun opportunity for them to be part of our marketing programme right from the start was compelling.

“The idea of getting everyone out on the streets across multiple locations to actually share a Coke with consumers themselves, has been extremely motivating. Coke is such a democratic brand and everyone who could be was involved across the NWEN business unit – the biggest surprise and feedback from the team involved was how responsive consumers were to our brand and how happy the simple act of sharing a Coke made everyone feel!”

Hanna Sjoestroem, NWEN Senior Brand Manager, Coca-Cola, added: “The day was an overwhelmingly positive experience, a memory for life. Share a Coke is all about connecting with people around us and sharing moments of togetherness, so there’s no better way of bringing that alive for our employees than to go out and experience it for themselves.”

In Central and Southern Europe (CSE), where more than 30,000 people work in offices and factories for Coca-Cola and its bottling partner Coca-Cola Hellenic, teams were encouraged to celebrate moments of togetherness both online through internal and external social media and offline in local activities.

Employees share a moment with each other
coke_2For example, in the Czech Republic, employees arriving at the office were given a can of Coca-Cola printed with the name of another random colleague. Their challenge was to find that person and enjoy a Share a Coke moment.

The same idea was used at Coca-Cola Hellenic in Romania. Once colleagues had found the person matching the name on the can, they joined them in a special Share a Coke chill-out zone to relax and have a chat.

Romanian colleagues also enjoyed a Share a Coke surprise, receiving cans carrying the names of their loved ones. Games, hosted by two of the country’s famous TV presenters, were also organised, with prizes including vouchers and tokens for the cinema, shopping and dinners, so associates could share time out of the office together.

In Italy, each employee went into work to find his or her personalised bottle waiting on their desk. All employees also had the opportunity to customise a can with the name of their choice, thanks to a Share a Coke can ‘customiser machine’ in the office reception (I like this idea – Rachel).

Offices in Bulgaria and Croatia were decorated to get employees into the Share a Coke spirit, with team-members receiving a personalised bottle, complete with a festive ribbon.

Marit Kroon, CSE Marketing Manager, Coca-Cola, said: “We wanted everyone to Share a Coke and moments of happiness together. Whether it is the person who sits next to you, on the floor above, or even someone you have never spoken to, this was the perfect opportunity to come together to celebrate Coca-Cola and the people who are always there for us.

About the campaign

The 2013 Share a Coke campaign is one of the brand’s biggest marketing campaigns to date, running across Europe and on more than one billion packs. It first launched in Australia two years ago, where it achieved huge success. In three months, the company saw a five per cent increase in the amount of people drinking Coke, a three per cent increase in sales, 870 per cent increase in Facebook traffic and more than 370,000 extra customised cans of Coke printed at special kiosks.

The European campaign was launched in April and, in Britain, the iconic brand name on 500ml and 750ml bottles has been replaced with 150 of the UK’s favourite names, while on larger bottles the words ‘family’ and ‘friends’ feature. The idea is to get consumers sharing a Coke and to encourage social media activity by posting pictures of themselves with bottles featuring their own name, or that of family and friends.

Post author: Sam Boniface of Headlines.

Thank you to Headlines for sharing their Coke story via my blog. What do you think about what you’ve read? You’re welcome to Tweet me @AllthingsIC or comment below.

Have you aligned your internal communication with an external campaign? What did you do? How did it work? If you have a story you’d like me to consider publishing, do check out my guest article guidelines and get in touch with your idea, and you could see your name and article here.


Further reading on my blog: How Coca-Cola is putting the fizz into its comms

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