Share a Coke: Coca-Cola Debrands to Expand Share

It takes a strong brand to be able to take the biggest chances, and emerge victorious. And there is no doubt that Coca-Cola is one of the strongest brands in the world. Recognized on a scale that most companies dream of, Coke is iconic and stands as one of the most popular and identifiable brands ever.

With their Share a Coke campaign, Coca-Cola did the unthinkable, they took their logo off of their product in an attempt to better connect with their audience and grow their market share. And it worked! By personalizing bottles and cans of coke with 150 of the most popular names in UK, they prompted people to look for their name when they walked into a store. And if they couldn’t find their name, perhaps they spotted the name of a friend or family member and picked it up for them as a quirky gift.

New CokeIt was a bold move for the brand, in a constant bottle with Pepsi for market share in the cola industry, which has had their share of major flops when they’ve taken big chances. We may be almost 30 years removed from the New Coke experiment that fizzled out in just 3 months, but I will bet you that there isn’t a marketing executive that doesn’t see flashes of that pop can when a major idea like this comes across the table. As you can imagine, a major flop like New Coke might make some executives weary of taking chances.

Before the Share a Coke campaign came to the UK, Coca-Cola took to the shelves of Australia and had the kind of results in social media that brands dream of. Reports of an 870% increase in traffic on their Facebook page and 39% growth in “Likes” proved that this new wave approach to engaging customers was working. The new generation of targeted consumers is using social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to share their brand experiences with their friends, family and the world. And Coke gave them a chance to show off a bottle with their name and their face right there in a “selfie waiting to” happen scenario.

It should be noted that Coca-Cola is not the only brand to try their hand at unbranding as a marketing strategy. Starbucks has debranded some locations in an effort to make them look less corporate and more like local cafes. The move hasn’t backfired, but savvy consumers also see right through it. On the negative side, Sony Pictures failed in their attempt to market an unbranded DVD copy of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. The DVD look may have matched the theme of the film, but it did not match the rest of the marketing materials being used and prompted some buyers to attempt to return their discs, thinking they had purchased fakes.

Share A Coke BottlesIs debranding for everyone? Absolutely not! Coke was able to pull off this campaign because everyone recognizes the bottle and colours of the label, even if the traditional logo isn’t present. When you go to the grocery store shelf or corner store fridge, you know that you’re grabbing a coke, based on the colours and just as iconic – the shape of the bottle! Most (virtually all) brands do not have that clout and should not take the chance.

However, the idea of improving the brand experience for customers is something that every brand should keep in mind at all times. Finding ways to connect with consumers and create memories and shareable experiences will, in turn, create word of mouth advertising and dedicated brand advocates.

Congratulations to Coke on the early success of Share a Coke. I’m anxious to see if it comes to North America and how this audience will accept it. No matter what, it will have to do better than New Coke.Share A Coke Cans and Bottles


Joshua Murray

Fuelled by ideas, opportunity and coffee, Joshua attacks the social media landscape every day with a purpose. His experience in retail, customer service and public relations have combined to give him a 360 degree view of social media for brands and he is committed to helping all of his clients leverage their voice in the social sphere.

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