Coca-Cola: 'Digital transformation is 50% strategy and 50% culture'

With a market capitalisation of US$230 billion, The Coca-Cola Company reigns as one of the biggest brands around the world and is constantly fizzing out new concepts and strategies around its products. The secret to this is to think like a tech company, said ASEAN marketing and digital IT lead Harish Kundargi. This requires the mindset of innovation and taking up challenges head on.

Speaking at Marketing’s Digital Marketing Asia conference, Kundargi explained that organisations in general have to change the culture and function much like a tech company to survive today's disruption. "When we speak to the folks at Google or Facebook, they are always eager to try new ideas or work on new ways. They are always disrupting their own offerings and trying something new. That's the culture at tech companies that brands need to establish," he said.

He added that to remain in play in the turbulent disruptive economy, brands must think of how to remain relevant today, while growing tomorrow. At the end of the day, this boils down to the organisation’s culture and cultural transformation is a big component of strategy and how change is driven within the organisation, Kundargi added.

Digital transformation is only 50% strategy, and the remaining 50% is culture.

He added that at any large company, there is only so much the leadership can do. At the end of the day, employees need to be driven on their own accord. “I can force you to talk to a colleague in Australia and I would probably do it once or twice. But unless I change the culture and have my employee driven enough to pick up the phone without being prompted to, things won't change on the ground,” he added.

But simply thinking about the evolution of the company is not nearly enough. Leadership teams need to put ideas into action with hard deadlines. As simple as this sounds, it is often forgotten. “Come up with an idea, put a timeline around it and be strict about it, and you will see outcome,” he said.

It is also important that as companies look to disrupt themselves, they know where they are headed. Often enough, companies leave it to agencies or outsource the idea generation to third parties. This, according to Kundargi, should never be the way as clients know their brands best and need to have a vision as to where they are headed to in the future.

“You as an organisation need to control the conversation, because you know where you want the organisation to be headed towards. You need to be in control, and have a plan or at the least a to-do list,” he said. So when discussing business transformation, it is really important  for a brand to know what that means for their organisation. This then needs to be trickled down so every member of the company.

How Coca-cola tackles disruption

At The Coca-Cola Company, the company has created different pillars of digital as per the regional priorities that can be related back to the company’s beliefs and values. Some of these are scaling up eCommerce, using of digital marketing in engaging with customers in more meaningful conversations and looking at data and analytics in a whole new light.

Kundargi, who has been with The Coca-Cola Company for close to a year, said to the audience that it is ultimately ensuring that right from the leadership to the associates, everyone is aligned and aware of the pillars. He emphasised that it is also critical to get cross functional teams to understand these pillars,  so that the discussions and decision making happens at a faster pace since everyone will be aligned.

Currently, The Coca-Cola Company has close to 4,100 products in its portfolio. According to Kundargi, the company continues to look at opportunities to simplify this as much as possible,  while investing in products that connect with the consumers. He said,

What is true with projects is also true with products. If an initiative or a project isn’t working for a sizeable period of time, you ought to be willing to close it.

As such, organisations is always in the process of strategising what to invest in. He added that for every company undergoing change, you need to be able to kill certain things that does not work for you and not cling on to it.

“What makes the brand great today is manageable product lines. You have to have product lines that are few and you can essentially manage the ecosystem around these product lines,” he added.

[Digital Marketing Asia Conference is returning for a fourth year in Jakarta this October! Join us on 22-23 October as we hear from the greatest minds on how you can ably navigate the ever-changing digital marketing landscape and stay ahead of the game. Secure your seats today.]