Chen, interactive marketing director at Coca-Cola China, told Campaign Asia-Pacific how she will adapt the company's strategy in her market.
Personally, I am seeing marketing as a pure discipline being combined with communications. It used to be separate, but the line is blurring and overlapping. We will be adopting the brand's global 'Content 2020' strategy in China. Content is the main driving factor, with everything else as a means to present content. And social media will be the 'infrastructure' for our content marketing.
I feel social media is like water in a bottle (which is the core idea) that fills the spaces in between 'rocks' that may be a PR event, on-ground activities, or a digital campaign executed separately. Social media can be the supporting link between all these. We call these social-at-heart, integrated campaigns.
For example, Renren as a social-media platform the equivalent of China's Facebook, has the strength of its popularity among college students. We can disseminate relevant event information, such as a sponsored concert, on Renren instead of buying normal banner ads. We can leverage our fanpage to invite more followers through social conversation. This fits the definition of linked content in our Content 2020 strategy: content that is relevant to both Coke’s business interests and consumer interests.
Coca-Cola’s marketing future rest on the ideals of content marketing. And by 2020, we feel that content excellence will be the standard in the world of marketing, so we are moving towards that direction starting from now. In China, this content-marketing strategy applies to both positively centred campaigns and negative, crisis-associated cases.
The traditional consumer decision journey is like a tunnel. Around 2011, the journey has evolved into a circle. In the past, brands talk, consumers listen. Now it's the other way around. Last year, social media to Coke China is still fuzzy, and we were grasping at different directions, like trying things out with Weibo. Everything that is new needs a process of adaptation, including for us. This year, I think we have developed solid social-media strategies and techniques that have worked and will work.
So in 2013 we want to go beyond Weibo and put our social-media eggs in more baskets. If you look at China's social-media landscape, you will gasp at the complexity of it. Last year, because of limited energy and resources, we picked just the most active social-media platform, that is undoubtedly Sina Weibo. This year, we want to and need to work with more social-media partners to expand our scope.
Also, we are not satisfied with just increasing the number of social-media fans, but the 'brand love' they show. Instead of having 1 million zombie fans, we would rather have just 80,000 active ones. In fact, we brought down our fan numbers by cleaning up all the zombie accounts. Sina told us we were one of three brands in China to have done this. KPI-wise, we now measure how interactive our fans are on a month-on-month or quarter-by-quarter basis—a more real metric instead of succumbing to pressure of accumulating many fans just because we are a big brand that "should". Social media is not merely a face-saver exercise!
Back to content marketing, users become our fans not only because we have content. It's like being in a long, lingering romantic relationship with fans that requires daily work. As long as you have real and not zombie fans, you will see the effectiveness of anything seeded on social media. Bridging content marketing with online-to-offline (O2O) marketing is also particularly effective. Last Christmas, we did a Weibo campaign that got fans to send Coke-branded postcards to their friends: virtual ones were sent online and physical ones to their actual mailing addresses at the same time.
Postcards are something physical that the recipients of such are always very happy to receive, especially in today's era when communications are controlled by technology. People need to touch 'real stuff' to fill up their emotional needs. The postcards all contain essential Coke messaging points and brand colours that are good associations for us. When those friends scan the QR codes on the postcards, they automatically become our social-media fans. I'm seeing some other brands in other product categories using this same idea since then.
Content marketing also requires us to break out of a campaign-based mindset. We can run a campaign from 1st to 31st January for instance, but consumers don't know and don't care that there is a time period. There is a date for traditional TVCs to be taken off-air and the campaign ends at that point then, but content marketing on social media is a long-term affair.