FIRST GLANCE: Coca-Cola gets “buzz”

Coca-Cola’s disclosure that it found limited short-term value from online buzz raises some good questions about information perception and the relative value of Real-Time-Marketing (RTM).

Takeaway: RTM (Real-Time-Marketing) isn’t about 15 minutes of fame – it needs to be part of an integrated long-term brand communications strategy.

Wendy Clark, Coca-Cola’s Senior VP-integrated marketing communications and capabilities, recently found herself in the unenviable situation of clarifying and defending her firm’s use of social media as part of their marketing strategy. Ms. Clark’s statements were in reaction to unwelcome publicity after it was disclosed that an internal Coca-Cola study found social “buzz” had no measurable impact on short-term sales (see “Buzzkill: Coca-Cola Finds No Sales Lift from Online Chatter“).


The disclosure (part of what we term the “Glass Houses” effect) was made by a Coca-Cola senior marketing manager at the Advertising Research Foundation’s Re:think 2013 event. It spread quickly via social media and led many to question the value of certain types of social marketing, including Coca-Cola’s own efforts (note: Coca-Cola has invested significantly in social as part of their successful transmedia-based Liquid Content strategy).

I’m not surprised by the results of the study. Coca-Cola is spot on when they say that buzz or chatter created as a one-off event has limited value (15 minutes of fame). It’s sustained buzz and chatter over time that can create momentum, build positive consumer sentiment and increase awareness and sales over the long-term. The same is true for real-time-marketing (RTM) whose greatest value is realized when it is woven into an ongoing strategy designed to create measurable long-term impact.

Ms. Clark’s statement addressing Coca-Cola’s position on social media (as printed in AdAge) is well worth the read. It demonstrates the risks of information being perceived differently than intended, provides some good insight on Coca-Cola’s use of social as part of their overall content marketing strategy and validates the idea that the RTM needs to be part of an integrated long-term brand communications strategy.


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