#MarketingExcellenceAwards spills: The Coca-Cola Company's trick to staying relevant


The Coca-Cola Company wowed the judges at MARKETING-INTERACTIVE's Marketing Excellence Awards 2020 taking home six gold awards for Excellence in Customer Engagement, Excellence in Event Marketing (Physical), Excellence in Experiential Marketing, Excellence in Marketing Innovation, Excellence in Sponsorship Activation, and Excellence in Viral Marketing. Meanwhile, Lim Kean Yew, integrated marketing communications director for The Coca-Cola Company also took home the gold for Marketing Innovator of the Year. 

The well known brand worked with Ogilvy Malaysia to boost sales for its Coca-Cola No Sugar product especially through convenience stores. Together the two tapped on the popular Star Wars franchise to draw consumers to convenience stores and purchase the Coca-Cola No Sugar. Coca-cola combined the most iconic artifact of the Star Wars universe - the light saber - with that of the Coca-Cola universe - the Coke bottle. Working with tech partners, it sought to light up the lightsabers on the Star Wars bottle labels through cutting-edge and sustainable OLED technology. This result in a Coca-Cola bottle with paper-thin lighted label that looks no different from an ordinary one. The mechanism was built to intuitively respond to a simple touch on the bottle. While the lighted packaging is not new, The Coca-Cola Company said said the Star Wars bottles were the world's first OLED plastic bottles.

We speak to Lim on what else the brand has up its sleeves.

What are some of the expectations your consumers now have for your brand?

Lim: Eating and drinking less sugar is increasingly important for many people. Many Singaporeans are telling us that they want more drinks that taste great but with less sugar and fewer calories, so we have been innovating to launch new lower-sugar and no-sugar drinks. Today in Singapore, more than 60% of our portfolio have the Healthier Choice Symbol, and 100% of our advertising feature lower- and no-sugar products. In 2018 we launched a new brand Authentic Tea House – a range of lower- and no-sugar teas, with its latest addition being Yin Hao Jasmine Green Tea, which is sugar-free. We will continue to rethink many of our recipes to reduce sugar while keeping the great tastes people love. While sugar in moderation is fine, we agree that too much of it isn’t good for anyone.

Consumers also want new experiences so we’re investing in innovation to delight consumers. Some examples include the lighted Coca-Cola No Sugar X Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker bottles, as well as the newly launched 7-Eleven X Coca-Cola concept store at the House of Eden, which offers consumers a dedicated space to relax and refresh amidst their busy schedules.

Consumers around the world care about our planet, and they want and expect companies to take action. In 2018 we announced our global World Without Waste vision, which aims to help collect and recycle the equivalent of 100% of our packaging by 2030. To achieve this, we’re working to make 100% of our packaging recyclable everywhere in the world. And we are partnering with local communities, our industry and consumers everywhere to help make sure packaging doesn’t end up where it doesn’t belong. Today in Singapore, 100% of our packaging is recyclable, and we have partnered with the Singapore Environment Council on community outreach programs to raise awareness about the importance of recycling. This year, we also launched a new clear PET bottle packaging for Sprite, which contains 10% recycled PET and is easier to recycle.

How has your marketing/your clients marketing plans shifted this year?

Lim: The first was our immediate response to the lockdowns as a result of the pandemic. As a company, we decided to put our commercial advertising for all our brands on hold and redirected our investments towards supporting COVID-19 relief and response efforts. Secondly, we relooked at our marketing plans for the remainder of the year and reworked them based on a renewed prioritisation on our core offerings. We built our new marketing plans around consumer behavior shifts due to the lockdowns and focused our investments on channels such as e-commerce and food service aggregators. In response to the increase of at-home consumption during the pandemic, we expanded our offerings on food service aggregators in Singapore, such as Grab and foodpanda, and grew our merchant base. We also worked with RedMart to promote our tea and hydration products – Authentic Tea House, Glacéau Vitaminwater, and Dasani water.

What are some of the trends you see carrying on post-pandemic, and how are you readying your workforce to be ready with these trends?

Lim: The pandemic has forced some consumer habitual changes and accelerated adoption of new technologies such as e-wallets and e-commerce. These will profoundly change consumer behavior, and consequently, some industries may be forever changed due to this shift. The acceptance of technologies to substitute various forms of physical engagements is only the beginning. As a company, we will always be where our consumers are.

To quote Robert Woodruff, former president of The Coca-Cola Company, Coca-Cola should always be “within an arm’s reach of desire.” Therefore, the company is evolving together with the consumer trends to stay relevant and give our consumers the best engagement we can as a brand. We are doing this by reprioritizing our resources and efforts towards capturing these new opportunities and constantly innovating new around new technologies to continually surprise and delight our consumers.

What do you think makes for great marketing these days?

Lim: Brands need to transcend beyond just offering their products to have a clear purpose and play a positive role in the societies they operate in. This will often translate to meaningful and relatable marketing initiatives on a campaign level and therefore speaks to consumers in a genuine manner. These stories and messages by the brand will often resonate better with the consumers either through an intellectual or emotional relevance – ideally, both. An example of this is the Coca-Cola No Sugar X Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker bottles that not only featured beloved characters from the franchise on an emotional level, but also surprised many fans with lightsaber designs that actually lit up on what looked like normal Coca-Cola No Sugar bottle labels. The intersect between technology and a meaningful message – lighting up the iconic lightsaber – is what captured the interest of fans worldwide and turned this local Singapore initiative into a global phenomenon.

How are you planning for 2021?

Lim: As the world enters into different levels of recovery, we will continue on our mission to “refresh the world” and “make a difference.”