COKE DOWN UNDER

Call it “the greener grass” syndrome, or just a bad case of good ole’ fashion envy. But I’ve always been chagrined to find that the best experiential marketing — or just really good consumer-centric marketing — comes from either Europe or, more surpisingly, Down Under in Australia. What is it about those crazy Aussies that allows the marketers that serve them to be so in-tune with where the Next Big Thing is coming from? Is it the beer? Maybe the surf? Or maybe, like the koala bear and the gamut of strange marsupials, marketing in Australia has benefitted from the island geography. The topographical isolation has bred a whole new species of marketers. Taperedges

Case in point is Coke’s new marketing initiatives down there. The Age reports on the company’s novel take on traditional music sponsorship — a staple in any youth marketer’s arsenal — that is becoming a cornerstone of the company’s masterbrand presence.

What makes Coke’s new music push interesting is that it has shunned a traditional sponsorship approach where companies pay to have their brands plastered on an event. Instead, Coke forged an alliance with Mushroom Records and Frontier Touring Company to co-produce the program and promote the tour via Coke bottles and cans.

The company isn’t a sponsor of a tour, it is a producer of one. On August 1, Coke released over 40,000 tickets to the tour, which champions up-and-coming Aussie bands without pandering to their core audience. Furthermore, the company has decided to use its cans and bottles as a new form of media. Consumers buy the stuff, enter codes that are prominent on teh packaging, and get tickets to the events. The cans, in essence, have become a sort of music currency.

Within a week the company had offloaded all its tickets, but its only promotion other than the softdrink labels was to inform its 180,000 registered online users that the tickets were available.

The operation started last year with the first Live’n’Local tour. On the back of that tour, 180,000 people signed up to the company’s music site and bought sufficient quantities of Coke and Sprite to qualify for a ticket to the 2005 tour. Coke’s Live 05 online network is a music hub, producing exclusive band interviews, music news and gossip, gig guides and plenty of giveaways. About 60 per cent of Coke’s registered users are younger than 25 and they spend about nine minutes per session at its website. That’s gold for a marketer that might pay up to $50,000 for 30 seconds in a top-rating TV show.

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And equally improtant, Coke isn’t pimping itself. “We’re really trying to change the way we’ve done things,” Australian managing director Gary Williams said. “In the past we’ve become nothing more than a major sponsor. As a company, we’re in transition. Three years ago, five years ago, we painted things red. We wanted our brand everywhere. We wanted it red and we wanted it so you could not walk into an event and not see a Coke logo. People often say we paint it red and we sell it black. I can very clearly say we are not going to paint this thing red. It needs to be painted relevant.”

Coke has done exactly that.

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