Online Authority Blog

Every Bottle Has a Story: Digital Maturity Lessons from Coca-Cola Sustainability

by Kelly Kubrick on April 29, 2014

First published on the Digital Strategy Conference blog, authored by Tara Dong. Tara Dong:
Lover of learning, coffee and all things digital. Social media junkie, digital strategy consultant, SFU instructor and raiser of super heroes with puppy breath. Want to know more about me? Visit

There is no doubt in my mind, or likely anyone’s, that Coca-Cola is an international brand with serious clout.  This clout can raise both kudos, questions and criticisms.  Having volunteered extensively in some of the poorest regions of Mexico, I’ve watched with deep concern as parents gave their children bottles of Coca-Cola to drink because it is cheaper than bottled water and contain desperately needed calories.  Empty calories yes, but when your family is struggling to survive in a region with undrinkable water, you do what you can. I wondered to myself if Coca-Cola cared about these families, these impoverished communities…

Enter Tim Goudie, Social Media Director, Sustainability for Coca-Cola.  His presentation was powerful, but for more than its emotional impact on our attendees and organizers.

The Coca-Cola Company is 125+ year old organization that didn’t just transition into the digital and social business age, it is leading the way. Among many achievements in 2013: the Company was named the Cannes Lions Creative Marketer of the Year; it is in a 13-year run as Interbrand’s Most Valuable Global Brand; and the Company’s marketing strategies and innovative consumer engagement work earned it a place among Fast Company magazine’s Top 15 Most Innovative Companies in the World.

No small part of the Coca-Cola Company success is due to its strong leaders, including Tim. In 2005 Tim led a team of four people responsible for designing, building and delivering global interactive marketing experiences for key Coca-Cola Company brands across multiple markets in multiple languages; and contributed to the design and launch of  The organization journeyed towards sustainable growth by instituting five key “Principles for Change“.

Tim began by entertaining and moving us with how digital has both made us ridiculous and transformed lives.  He challenged the room to realize that sustainability is the next frontier, how we are giving back, treating the resources and communities that are entrusted to us is our Social Purpose.

Social Purpose becomes the single most important factor in distinguishing you from your competitors.

Coke is seeking to: refresh the world, inspire moments of optimism and happiness, and create value and make a difference.

These are wonderful ideas, but how do you tell someone who is making less than $1 a day that you want to “inspire moments of optimism and happiness”?  You don’t, instead you move to the third element and create value and make a difference.

The model behind Coca-Cola’s magic

Social Business Strategy | If you have a hierarchical structure that is not nimble and responsive, and you’re compensated to operate within that structure, human nature says that’s where you’re going to operate.  That structure needs to be turned on it’s head if what we want is nimble and responsive.

Data & Technology | Measurement is essential, you need tools, good ones to measure if your campaigns are having any effect on consumer trust.  You need to know who, what, when, where, why.  And tell your data story, Coke turns each 60+ page report into a one page infographic summary that can be given to executive, etc.

Content Strategy | Once you know your data and demographics, adjust your content to suit your followers.  Coke liked creating documentary style stories, some upwards of 5 minutes.  To respect and engage their audience these lengthy videos needed to be turned into 30 seconds “shorts” that engage on mobile devices, and then funnel their audience to YouTube. On YouTube their longer videos were there for those interested.  More shockingly Coca-Cola discovered if they dropped their branding off the first posts (30 second videos) their engagement rates went up all the way down the chain, ultimately leading audience to the journey website .

Channel Strategy | Stick to the meat and potatoes (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube) and avoid shiny pennies (Pinterest, Vine) where you can’t target by demographic. Don’t pay to target people you’re not trying to reach.

Tim Goudie, Social Media Director, Sustainability, The Coca Cola Company

Kelly Kubrick

Digital Analyst and President of Online Authority; COO of MyLiberty.Life; co-author Six Dimentions of Digital Maturity Model; co-founder Digital Strategy Conference; co-owner 3rd generation family business. Downhill Skier. Foodie. Fan of all things digital.

Kelly KubrickEvery Bottle Has a Story: Digital Maturity Lessons from Coca-Cola Sustainability

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