Evan Jacobs

In today’s world, any business can be a brand with effective marketing, but few of them can trumpet the success of industry titans like Apple, Nike and Coca-Cola. At ad:tech New York 2011, Wendy Clark, senior vice president of integrated marketing communications at Coca-Cola Company said that businesses aiming for brand success have to offer users value.

From producing content relevant to target audiences to using platforms that create simple and innovative experiences, Clark shed some light on what she referred to as the “eight principles for maximizing brand value.”

Here are some key takeaways from Coke’s value principles:

1. Be Shareworthy

Brand success requires more than merely having a social presence online: Creating content that is compelling and relevant enough to warrant sharing is necessary. Mediocre attempts at small ads and half-hearted marketing efforts do not pay off and will not be successful going forward – only well thought out and executed campaigns will move your brand forward and foster loyalty among your stakeholders.

Simply put, the point is to take the time to think about your brand’s plans and only do things that have a (positively) significant impact on your audience. If maintaining a blog on your website is part of your marketing plans, make it a destination instead of a channel. For instance, instead of a generic blog post, consider roundtable-like discussions featuring guests or even multiple employees to really jump start a discussion with your readers. Dynamic and interesting content is what retains audiences, not regularity.

2. Integrate

In order to maximize the success of your brand, both tangibly (sales) and intangibly (loyalty), fluid integration between all marketing channels is an essential. Clark gave the example of Coca-Cola’s pervasive use of mobile in their Chinese “chok” marketing campaign, uniting TV ad spots with an iPhone app that allowed users to “catch” bottle caps as they appeared to win prizes.

This is a screengrab from Coca-Cola's 'Chok' TV/mobile ad campaign in China.

Brafton recently reported on a similar integrated marketing approach taken by the Asian fast food chain Pei Wei, which utilized a blend of social campaigns with email to reach more than 20,000 new subscribers and drive repeat purchases among 20 percent of the campaign recipients.

3. Think Horizontally

Every brand, product and service has interconnected pieces and a supply chain, and businesses have to think end-to-end. Clark spoke about “thinking laterally,” taking a bird’s eye view of your product chain and identifying every link along it that must be maintained to facilitate a consistent brand experience (which actually sounds like thinking vertically). For Coca-Cola, this goes as far down the chain as the bees that pollinate the flowers of their fruit plants, eventually moving up the supply chain to their end juice products.

For a service-oriented business, keeping your human capital (employees) happy and productive and monitoring the efficacy of the technology stacks that enable your offering represent effective uses of end-to-end thinking.

4. More Good, Not More More

A natural extension of being “shareworthy,” always focus your efforts, investments and manpower on projects that you feel will make a major impact on your stakeholders. Money is certainly important, but Clark argues that merging social good and profit is the ultimate key to positive brand buzz and residual loyalty.

“If the campaigns you’re looking at aren’t keeping you up at night, struggling and wrestling with how to find the funding to do them, they’re not good enough.” Wendy Clark

5. Listen – “Listen twice as much as you talk.”

As with any relationship, communication and mutual understanding are paramount to successful.

Clark argued that listening is what separates a brand from a great brand, and suggested using all available channels to understand what your customers talk about, need and want. Social media in particular, specifically comments and feedback on Facebook and Twitter, are readily accessible directional data that should be used to focus and evolve products to match your fans’ desires.

Earlier this year, Dell surveyed a sample of 200 medium and large businesses to better understand the relationship between social media and big business. They drew similar conclusions to Coca Cola, noting that, “Listening and responding to customers is so basic and fundamental. The emergence of social media elevates how companies can act on the feedback they get from customers.”

Further, Brafton has reported that more than two-thirds of businesses miss social engagement opportunities with their audiences. The most common use case for social media in business seems to be responding to complaints or providing limited customer support, signaling that most companies have significant room for improvement in how they communicate and listen to their customers online.

6. Consistency x Relevance x Scale (Done Over Time)

A screengrab of a Coca-Cola employee looking up a pallet of Coke Classic cans.

Consistency has been an important success factor for Coca Cola over the past decades, and Wendy Clark mandated the virtue in her keynote at ad:tech. She referred to the fact that the classic Coke bottle has been maintained over time, and it is now the second-most recognized symbol in the world (following the Crucifix). Consistency gives your stakeholders a foundation of trust and fulfilled expectations, creating lifetime brand users and invaluable word-of-mouth advertising.

At the same time, Clark explained that being consistently relevant to your audience is the next logical step above product quality. There should be a balance between making adjustments or additions to keep your business current and staying true to core principles. In order to stay relevant, a brand must continually listen to and engage its fans (and detractors) to ensure every project, campaign and initiative it undergoes means something.

Then, for real success, brands must be prepared to carry out their messages, products, services, etc. at scale to deliver them to all audiences where there is demand.

7. Collaborate (Collaborate, Collaborate!)

Silos within a company are the quickest bottlenecks to innovation and success. Hire employees with excellent teamwork skills, as well as marketing talent to ensure that cross-departmental interactions are productive and foster ideas that might not have been possible or existed within the narrow scope of one functional division.

Clark elaborated on this, stating that Coca Cola is “… more acutely aware of the behaviors of our marketers than their skill set.”

8. Do Not Accept the Status Quo – “Be Relentless.”

Coke’s final value principle refers directly to drive and the raw ambition of your team and leadership. In order to be a truly successful brand, everyone behind the scenes must be aligned in strategy and passion to spend the hours getting each facet of every campaign right. Each team member should be ready and eager to promote your brand to friends, family and their online audiences, demonstrating personal investment in its success. Great brands are proactive, forward-looking and resilient.

To distill these items into one central philosophy, the bottom line is to be passionate, customer-centric and ultimately, relevant. A brand that encompasses each of these attributes has a much better chance of being successful and converting that success into consistency in the long run.

How do you infuse this philosophy into your own company? What are your brand challenges? We want to know more and would love to hear about them and respond with our own collective experiences in the comments.