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Coke for all seasons

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Debabrata Mukherjee, VP-Marketing & Commercial, Coca-Cola India

Debabrata Mukherjee, VP-Marketing & Commercial, Coca-Cola India

Coca-Cola began the festivities for 2014 with the ‘Reasons to Believe’ campaign that received good response from the consumers .Coke also plans to ‘De-seasonalize the Coke’, a campaign to change the general notion that soft drinks are to be enjoyed only in the summer season. In a candid interview Debabrata Mukherjee, VP-Marketing & Commercial, Coca-Cola India, spoke to Kanika Mehrotra about the success of the ‘Reasons to Believe’ campaign and the way Coke plans to execute its ‘De-seasonalize campaign’.

Coke’s latest campaign is ‘Reasons to Believe’. How do you see the response to it in India? How successful has it been?
The Coca-Cola campaign ‘Reasons to believe’ ushered in the new year with optimism and happiness. It created a world of hope with reasons to believe in a brighter and happier tomorrow. For the past three years, we have started every New Year with our message of optimism, positivity and happiness. These are the values that Coca-Cola stands for.
In the beginning of 2012, we had the ‘Reasons to believe’ campaign, followed by ‘Crazy for Happiness’ in 2013. This year we have followed the same pattern by bringing back the first campaign-‘Reasons to Believe’. 2013 has been a tough year for most and hence we wanted to reinforce the message of positivity.

This clearly is a testament to the popularity of this campaign. It also had a very strong mobile link where the ever so popular jingle could be downloaded for free. Additionally, there was a strong TV and radio leg to it. The response to the song download has been phenomenal and we registered a 100,000 downloads on the first day of the campaign going on air.

Another target of Coca-Cola India for 2014 is to ‘De-seasonalise the soft drink’. How do you plan to do that? Which mediums will you use to market this idea?
We are working on a strategy to generate sales of our soft drinks across all seasons rather than just the summer. We endeavor to de-seasonalize the business and make it a 12-month business. That means, not just year-round marketing but efficient distribution systems reaching remote untapped markets, affordable pricing, innovative cooling solutions and trade activation. Our expenditure will be in keeping with our brand plans and our communication strategy will also be aligned to this business reality.

Coke is soon coming out with smaller bottles. How do you plan to launch those and what is your target audience?
Coca-Cola is already available in a 200ml packaging, the returnable glass bottle, across many markets. There is a high demand for this size especially from people who want to enjoy the refreshing taste of Coca-Cola while they are on the move. From a consumer’s standpoint, our strategy comprises offering a range of products in different packs at different prices which is in keeping with our OBPPC (occasion, brand, price, pack, and channel) architecture. Providing consumers with choice and value continues to be the cornerstone of our business strategy.

What role does social media play for realizing the trend among the target audience and how does it help the company to plan its marketing strategy?
The Coca-Cola Company has been dynamic in its approach over the years. It has created a two-way dialogue by being sensitive to the current requirement of its consumers and always delivered a variety of products accordingly as and when the need arose. This landscape is the ‘liquid and linked.’ This simply means that we need to develop compelling and uncontrollable ideas. These concepts and ideas will then acquire a life of their own when consumers after identifying with them, share and re-interpret them.

As far as leveraging assets and platforms is concerned, our communication plan has four parts: paid, owned, earned and shared media. Anyone of these cannot take the brand very far. One cannot pay one’s way to greatness anymore. In our kind of model one avenue is not evaluated in competition with another. For us, all kinds of media have their bit to contribute. For example, last year we broke our Thums-Up campaign leveraging Salman Khan’s digital assets (Face book and twitter) before putting it on mass media. We ran a very successful social media campaign for ‘Coke Studio Season 3’ and also the Sprite ‘Teen Till I Die’ initiative.

Google’s Pakistan-India union advertisement has gained praise from the advertising industry as well as the consumers. Coke had come up with a campaign ‘small world machine’ on similar lines. Please comment.
We have received only positive responses from everyone who has interacted with the Small World Machines. The experience evoked many heartwarming and emotional reactions. One of the many people from Pakistan who took part in the initiative said “It’s great to connect with an average Indian who is in most ways similar to an average Pakistani.” Another said “It’s something to really bring the countries together,” and also “It’s fantastic that you’re allowing people to see the other side as well, to not let it be a mystery anymore.”

The very fact that people took note of this video was very encouraging in itself, considering that it was only released on the digital platform, unlike other ads/ videos. That really mattered to us and kept us going. In the social media space, the video has been widely appreciated not just by consumers but also the media community. It has garnered around 2.3 million views and is still being viewed and shared the world over. We did not issue any formal communication to announce the campaign and yet the initiative was so powerful in uniting the hearts of the people across the two countries that reflected in the speed with which the video went viral, not just in India and Pakistan but all over the world.
We were very excited by the fact that this video sparked several conversations. We consider this as our success. Notably, this work has won several awards at Cannes last year.

Coke is already very popular among the youth. Is it planning any special campaigns to target the older generations also?
Coca-Cola stands for Happiness and Optimism. It has been able to spread innumerable, magical and memorable moments of happiness to people across 207 countries over the past 128 years only because happiness transcends across age, geography, caste and similar other factors. Happiness has indeed been Coca-Cola’s secret formula.

With people in India becoming very conscious about calories, how do you plan to market the Diet Coke? Is there any special digital campaign planned for it?
Offering low and no-calorie beverages is a part of our strategy to offer consumer a choice. We strongly believe that all of our products can be part of an active, healthy lifestyle that includes a sensible, balanced diet and regular physical activity. Consumers, who want to reduce the calories that they consume from beverages, can choose from our portfolio of low and no-calorie beverages, as well as our regular beverages in smaller sizes. As a part of this effort, we will also continue to promote healthy, active, live programs across the country like our U-16 football and cricket initiatives, offer low or no-calorie beverage options in every market, provide transparent nutrition information, featuring calories on the front of all of our packages and market them responsibly, including no advertising for children under 12 anywhere in the world.

COKE STUDIO@MTV has become a synonym for great music. Is there any other tie-up of this kind planned for 2014?
Over the last three years, Coke Studio@MTV has become synonymous with independent fusion music reflecting Coca-Cola’s unique viewpoint on music. The platform has created an opportunity for the immensely talented as well as the unknown musical talent of India to come to the fore and mesmerize music lovers with the powerful magic of Coke Studio’s Signature Fusion music.

We have received a very positive and encouraging response to Season 3 and are finalizing plans for 2014. It will be a little too early to share anything right now since the plans are still pre-mature. We will keep you posted once they firm up.

Coca-Cola has also associated itself with social causes. Is there any specific social issue /project for which Coke is going to tie-up with the concerned authority? Are there any digital social campaigns also lined up?
Over the last 20 years, the Coca-Cola India system has partnered with government bodies, civil societies and business organizations to play a positive role in the growth and development of communities. With an enduring commitment to building sustainable communities, our Company is focused on initiatives that reduce our environmental footprint, support active and healthy living, create a safe and inclusive work environment for our associates and contribute to the development of the communities where we operate. Some of the company’s flagship community development programs include the ‘Support My School’ program, the ‘Parivartan’ retailer training program, ‘Women Empowerment’ program as a part of the global 5BY20 campaign and the recently launched ‘Thums Up being Human Veer’ campaign for the physically disabled.

We also ran a successful digital campaign for initiatives like the ‘Support My School’ program. However, we re-evaluate the need to have a digital leg to a campaign/ initiative depending on the overall communication message, the objective of the initiative as well the target audience. Digital necessarily needn’t be a part of every initiative we undertake, be it sustainability or marketing.

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