I’m about as loyal a customer of Coke as you’ll find. I grew up in Atlanta, which was largely built on Coca-Cola money. I drink several Diet Cokes a day, ask for it by name in every restaurant I’m at, and give dirty looks when the server asks, “Is Pepsi OK?”
Having said all that, I’m really not interested in engaging with Coca-Cola as a company, nor do I feel any sort of special kinship with other Coke drinkers. The company, however, wants to further build community around its brand. That’s why they’re plowing ahead with a very large content portal among other initiatives they’ve launched to connect with customers.
At an Atlanta Interactive Marketing Association event a few years ago, I heard a Coke marketing exec say that Coke is rare among companies with a large Internet presence; simply put, they don’t sell their product online. So what can they really do online? Judging by the site above, they’re willing to do pretty much everything else but sell product.
The site is quite a mix of things — content directly related to Coke, videos tangentially related to Coke, and other entertainment and society-related pieces with an air of neutrality. They’ve even opened up their own navel-gazing discussion as to what they’re doing, which I suspect is for currying favor with social media gurus in the name of “transparency.”
As other large brands dive into the content business, we’ll see that few will succeed and many will fail. Simply because in the end, most brands have nothing of substance to say beyond what’s directly related to their product or service. Coca-Cola has plenty to say. Whether its customers will care or not, well, we’ll find out as time goes on.
But make no mistake, this is a global brand with an image, and business model, to protect. Right now the site’s mostly shiny, happy branding. There’s no mention of the $1 million they spent fighting GMO labeling in California. As it stands now, Coca-Cola can choose how to use their power: They can easily push out their content to all reaches of the Internet, and the offline world for that matter. They can give a large audience to artists and activists who fit their worldview. Let’s hope they use their forum for good, not as a bully pulpit.