WHY THE “SHARE-A-COKE” CAMPAIGN WAS SO SUCCESSFUL

Qeola
5 min readSep 29, 2020
Image by Qeola

Coca-Cola is one of the most widely recognized brands around the world, with a presence in over 200 countries. The company has over the years been able to associate its brand with Family, Community, Unity and Happiness through various marketing campaigns that have been aimed at connecting with their audience and integrating their product into consumers’ daily lives.

One of their most recent and successful campaigns was the “Share-A-Coke” campaign. First launched in Australia in the summer of 2012, the ambitious digital media campaign drove sales of over 250 million Coke products in a country of 23 million people. That’s over 10 bottles per person within the space of 3 months. The campaign was later expanded across 70 countries around the world, encouraging participation and a Coke-buying frenzy wherever it was run.

Let’s dig into the different elements of the campaign and find out what made this one of the most successful brand campaigns of all time.

THE STRATEGY

  1. PERSONALIZATION
  2. DIGITAL ENGAGEMENT
  3. A POWERFUL CALL-TO-ACTION
  4. POWERFUL STORYTELLING
Image Source: marketing.com.au

PERSONALIZATION: The “Share-A-Coke” campaign was built around personalization. The campaign was designed to connect with the audience and spur a sense of ownership as well as being a part of the brand. Starting with 150 of the most popular names in Australia, which were printed on the bottles in the place of their logo, made consumers feel like the product was specially designed for them. They also included generic nouns like “Mom”, “Dad”, “Bestie”, “Star” etc. to cover people who had more unique names. There’s a feeling that comes with buying a bottle of soda with your name on it and this campaign made consumers feel like they were important and special. They expanded this further in various countries by allowing people to vote for the next batch of names to be released. They also set up kiosks that allowed people to have their names printed on the spot on a bottle of Coke as well as a website where you could input your name to have it printed on their next batch of orders in your city. This resulted in user-generated content and drove online media reach, as people went on social media to share their findings through images and videos.

Personalization is very important if you want to succeed in your brand marketing efforts. It’s important for people to feel special, unique and like they are a part of something great.

Image Source: Wall Street Journal

DIGITAL ENGAGEMENT: Word-of-mouth marketing is the most powerful form of marketing. You are likely to trust a recommendation from your friend or even a random stranger tweeting from another country than you would trust a brand or business. Coke’s launch strategy was to first distribute the bottles with the branded names across retail stores in the country. Imagine going to pick up some groceries and seeing your name or that of your friend or partner on a Coke bottle in the refrigerator. This created an online buzz as consumers started sharing pictures of their discoveries and began to send them to their friends or post them on their social media. This was then followed by a 3-page newspaper print and a TV campaign featuring a montage of volunteered photos of people sharing a name. They also launched an electronic billboard and encouraged people to send an SMS of the name of a loved one they would like to project on the billboard. Those who sent the names were then sent an MMS of the name on the billboard that they could share via email or on Facebook. All of this along with some influencer marketing by celebrities resulted in a social boomerang of shares, likes, comments, retweets and so on.

Within the first year of the “Share-A-Coke” Campaign, consumers shared more than 500,000 photos via the “#ShareaCoke” hashtag, with Coca-Cola gaining roughly 25 million new Facebook followers.

Image Source: marketing.com.au
Image Source: marketing.com.au

A POWERFUL CALL-TO-ACTION: The campaign was created around a powerful call to action “Share”. It wasn’t just about getting a Coke with your name on it, but finding a Coke with a friend, family or loved one’s name that you could share or send to them. This allowed it to go beyond personal consumption as people were able to go beyond just looking for their names alone to also buying a second bottle to share. The call to action “Share-A-Coke” resonated so well that people were buying Cokes to show their loved ones that they missed them… from soldiers overseas in Afghanistan to loved ones in the hospital, to friends they have lost touch with. Call-to-Actions are very important. You need to let people take the next action by tying it to a value they will be getting for taking that action.

Image Source: mktoolboxsuite

POWERFUL STORYTELLING: The “Share-A-Coke” campaign was built around a powerful story theme — community. The concept of sharing is very community/family-centric. It allowed people to connect with a story of love, acceptance and understanding. It created a global family. There were several spin-off stories from the campaign across different countries. The most notable was that of South Africa which showcased a dog named “Bobby” searching around the city for a coke with his name on it. Many countries were able to adapt the campaign to their local cultures and traditions using their own unique names, slangs and languages. While Australia had a Coke with the name “Mate”, Nigeria had “Padi”, both meaning friends. The campaign was also very relatable across diverse ages, locations and income status. It brought people together. No one was too big or too small for a Coke with their name on it.

Share A Coke with Booby

Lucie Austin, the then-director of marketing for the Australian campaign, when asked why she thought the Share-A-Coke was such an international success said; “At the end of the day, our name is the most personal thing we have. It’s our fingerprint… our identity… in one word. We gave consumers an opportunity to express themselves through a bottle of Coke, and to share the experience with someone else. The fact that your name is on a Coke bottle, it can’t get more personal than that!”

Did you ever share a coke with anyone? Share with us any of your experiences with the campaign in the comments section below.

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