Marianne Calnan
May 25, 2024

Coca-Cola brand director: ‘Brands can’t be complacent and must keep renewing’

Oana Vlad spoke alongside the creative directors of the Kansas City Chiefs and JKR at the D&AD Festival.

Coca-Cola: plans to use AI more in marketing
Coca-Cola: plans to use AI more in marketing

Oana Vlad, senior director of the Coke global brand, Coke Zero Sugar and Coke Creations global lead, has said brands “can’t be complacent” when it comes to attracting new customers and retaining current ones.

Speaking at this year’s Design and Art Direction Festival at the Southbank Centre, London, Vlad warned that brands have to “keep renewing themselves" to appeal to new audiences.

“There’s a difference between getting people to choose a product with [their] heart, rather than [their] head," she said.

“You may feel thirsty, but you choose what you drink with your heart. And if your product is chosen, that’s a fan rather than a customer.

“You have to bring something special and valuable to capture people into a relationship with your brand.”

Vlad spoke at a session focused on unlocking the power of fandoms alongside Jordan Giesler, creative director at Kansas City Chiefs, and Tosh Hall, global chief creative officer at independent creative agency JKR.

She added that brands have to “move at the speed of culture” in order to stay relevant. “That can include tapping into celebrations like Christmas and Ramadan, and sports, fashion and music.”

Coca-Cola has its own international music platform, Coke Studio, through which it hosts studio-recorded music performances by established and emerging artists. Coke Studio released its first original track fronted by American musician Jon Batiste in June last year. 

Vlad also spoke about the power of AI in advertising, following Coca-Cola forming a five-year partnership with Microsoft to help develop the use of generative AI across its core systems last month.

Its plans include implementing generative AI digital assistants from Azure OpenAI Service to help enhance its customer interactions and marketing efforts, as well as streamline supply chain processes.

This comes alongside its Coca-Cola Creations Y3000 drink, billed as the world's first AI-powered beverage co-created by humans and AI. The brand used AI to analyse vast consumer preference data and craft a beverage to "capture the spirit" of Gen Z.

Vlad said AI “opens up creativity and adds an interesting dynamic to it. Brands have to adapt and learn how to interact with people in the physical and virtual worlds.”

Vlad added that by “leveraging and experimenting” with AI, brands can gain insight into their customers at scale, “which lets you make better marketing and allows you to get to know the people you’re targeting better”.

The panel discussed the power of social media as part of marketing. Giesler said Kansas City Chiefs was an “entertainment brand”, so it had to tap into social media.

He said: “Off the field, every marketing touchpoint has to be entertainment-led. TikTok is the most direct-to-fan tool and is a more authentic, lighthearted channel than other social media platforms for us to connect with fans. It creates connections, trust and love for the brand.”

Giesler spoke about the activations the Kansas City Chiefs created when visiting Frankfurt, Germany last November for the 2023 NFL game against the Miami Dolphins.

This included its "Champion Ship" – a custom-wrapped, Chiefs-themed boat that was docked on the banks of the Main River in central Frankfurt, and served as the central hub of activity and entertainment throughout the club's stay in Germany. It offered experiences such as games, photo ops, exhibitions and a post-game press conference with the team’s head coach Andy Reid and players Travis Kelce, Taylor Swift's boyfriend, and Patrick Mahomes.

Giesler said: “It’s critical to engage with customers through different touchpoints to make them have positive associations with the brand.”

Campaign UK

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