In 2011, social media was not a broad based advertising medium, in comparison to broadcast and paper mediums. As mentioned in a previous blog, (An introduction to Coca-Cola) Coca-Cola was among the first to use it as a definitive campaign.
The initial campaign, consisting of the roll-out of named cans and bottles, and the Kings Cross billboard were minimal outlay compared to the hundreds of thousands of dollars needed in the case of a sponsorship or television advertisements (Chitty et al. 2015, p. 398). As Chitty et al. (2015, p. 391) mentions, the use of ‘real people’ to gain attention through social media sharing realises both low expense and high credibility. The target audience has been shown to mistrust, and disconnect with conventional advertising (Chitty et al. 2015, p. 391), whereas Lucie Austin (as cited in Moye 2016, para. 7) of Coca-Cola wished to connect to their audience, and “speak to them at eye level.”
The simplicity of the campaign, the ideal of just simply spending time with others while drinking said product, led to a lessened chance of misconception of the communication, and no language/cultural barriers to detract from the underlying message (Belch & Belch 2012, p.143). The use of social media to create user content advertising created a viral campaign through consumer-generated marketing, in an “act of propagating marketing relevant messages through the help and cooperation of individual consumers” (Belch & Belch 2012, p. 143).
Many consumers took place in utilising the #shareacoke hashtag, and visiting the Kings Cross billboard to take part in the text entertainment. This created an ‘angle’ and excitement surrounding the campaign that media outlets could report on, creating even more free publicity for Coca-Cola. This led credibility to the campaign, as it was not paid advertising, and created what Chitty et al. (2015, p. 393) refer to as ‘Proactive MPR’. The immediate nature of social media meant the campaign became very popular in a short amount of time, allowing Coca-Cola to be reassured of the campaign success. As Belch and Belch (2012) stated;
social media has become pervasive in our daily lives, and is influencing consumer behaviour. with the advent of social networking tools and the availability of digital devices such as smartphones and tablets, consumers are more empowered than ever before as they can access and retrieve information, connect with one another to share it, discuss products/services and brands, and interact with marketers quickly and easily (p. 166)
Image: Social Network Applications. Credit: Social Media Unicorn
The disadvantages to this campaign were minimal. While the outlay was not as high as a sponsorship or paid advertising, the Kings Cross billboard was in a high traffic, (which means expensive) area (Chitty et al. 2015, p. 235) so there would have been financial risks involved. This would have been compounded by the additional printing and research costs of the labels, however had the campaign not succeeded this would not have put sales at risk as they would not have had to be recalled, but rather sold as normal.
As social media was not a commonly used medium to be the focus of a marketing campaign, it was high risk as there had been no previously successful campaigns to model from. There was less control than normal campaigns, as the engagement from the public could not be censored, although there were measures put in place to block out any profanity that may have been texted to the billboard display. All in all, the campaign broke new ground in the area of viral marketing, and could definitely be considered a success in raising brand awareness.
Belch, G. E. & Belch, M. A. 2012, Advertising and promotion: an integrated marketing communications perspective, 2nd Edition., McGraw-Hill, Australia.
Chitty, B., Luck, E., Barker, N., Valos, M., & Shrimp, T.A., 2015, Integrated marketing communications, 4th Edition., Cengage Learning, Australia.
Moye, J., (2016), Share a Coke: How the groundbreaking campaign got its start ‘Down Under’, Available: https://www.coca-colajourney.com.au/stories/share-a-coke-how-the-groundbreaking-campaign-got-its-start-down-under (accessed 7th April 2018).