One of the chief desires of corporate marketing management is control. Brand managers can’t control the outside world (even though they would like to!), but they can control the way in which they react to the external marketing environment. And the external marketing environment presents a host of challenges that must be scaled.
Distribion knows all too well the importance of centralized marketing control. Forrester Research indicates 34 million workers ignored company policies and installed unsupported software to help them more effectively do their jobs. Gleanster research also indicates that 89% of large companies with regional or global brands struggle to maintain a consistent customer experience due to a misalignment between corporate marketing directives and local marketing efforts.
A brand that I have long admired for their approach to marketing has been Coca-Cola. Coca-Cola has been around for nearly 127 years. A 127-year history of a brand is quite remarkable. Very few brands last that long. In its nearly 127 year history, Coca-Cola has become an iconic brand globally. They understand the importance of the various elements of the marketing mix working harmoniously together. This mixture dictates the brand that the consumer experiences.
Although Coca-Cola does not have the same structure in selling their product as the financial services and insurance industry, they do have strategic relationships with local marketing entities that would impact the marketing mix and the way that the consumer would experience the brand. If a bottler or an account manager at a local level doesn’t follow standard marketing protocols in presenting to the brand to the consumer, it could waylay the best laid and often costly centralized marketing plans at the corporate level. In our digital age, often brand management software is a means of safeguarding corporate brand management initiatives.
Coca-Cola’s consistency in marketing communication is remarkable. Although the ads change over time, the general themes expressed in the ads do not. Coca-Cola is known for reinforcing the ideas of happiness, togetherness and refreshment in ads across the globe. In many past ad campaigns, Coca-Cola used the tagline “Have a Coke and a Smile”. The classic Super Bowl ad from 1979 featuring Pittsburgh Steeler linebacker Mean Joe Greene and a young boy show refreshment on the part of Greene and delight on the part of the young boy. The ad is often considered to be amongst the greatest Super Bowl ads, showing that it still resonates more than 30 years later. During the holidays, Coca-Cola has often used ads with smiling polar bears. Current advertising campaigns have featured the tagline of Open Happiness.
What is even more remarkable for this consistency is the fact that the number of channels that a brand must maintain a presence in has grown exponentially over the last 25 years. 25 years ago, a brand would plan their marketing communications around print, radio and television. By the mid-1990s, websites and email entered the mix. Now, a brand often has a presence in traditional mediums, websites (including the use of SEO and PPC tactics), email and a wide variety of social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc.).
The rise of social media has been of primary concern to many corporate marketers. Gleanster notes that customers have demonstrably more control over the brand than do marketers. Examples abound of how a consumer’s efforts in social media have materially impacted branding efforts. This can certainly be construed as a pain point for brands. To alleviate this pain point and to maximize the potential of their presences on various social media platforms, Distribion introduced a new concept called “Distributed Social Media Marketing“.
Using the Distribion Distributed Marketing Platform, corporate marketers can now create social media initiatives that maintain a consistent brand feeling that promotes positive brand beliefs in order to induce purchase through the use of rich media and other supporting collateral.
With the Coca-Cola example, it is also important to note that packaging has been consistent over the years, as has it script lettering. The product, with the exception of the New Coke debacle, has had some slight alterations but has remained consistent. Concerning product distribution, Coca-Cola is everywhere, including remote parts of Africa. And everywhere you go, the packaging conveys the same essence.
This run of success does not mean that Coca-Cola is immune to challenges. Recent news indicates that sales growth has slowed in Europe & China, and is stagnant in the United States. It will be interesting to see how Coca-Cola remains relevant in an era when the carbonated beverage category is essentially flat.
The Coca-Cola brand has centralized marketing control at the corporate level, which is vital, given the complexity of maintaining an iconic global brand. Many brands could adopt successful branding tactics that Coca-Cola has used to achieve revenue growth targets. The idea of creating consistency in the way a target market experiences a brand is transferable to any industry. It is certainly attainable for a brand to define their core values that they wish for their product/service offering and to have differing messages convey the same general themes.
One way to assure that this process is seamlessly woven into the fabric of a marketing organization is through marketing automation. Automation mostly impacts the marketing communications process. Automation creates a consistent feel across the multiple marketing outlets and ensures that the brand experience for the consumer is optimized to the standard which the corporate marketer desires. Consistency creates a centralized marketing strategy that bolsters brand equity and delivers measurable financial results.