3 Personalization Lessons From a Decade of “Share a Coke”
In 2011, Coca-Cola created a cultural phenomenon with a simple marketing campaign
What’s in this article:
- In an effort to revitalize the brand, the “Share a Coke” campaign was born and became one of the biggest and most recognizable personalization campaigns to date
- The company’s personalization marketing efforts led to an entirely new revenue stream, and it all started with the most basic personal connection one can make: acknowledging another person’s name
- Creating something that consumers are excited to show off and share can turn a campaign into a social phenomenon
In 2011, Coca-Cola sales were in decline and had been for several years. After decades of dominating the soft drink market, Coke was falling out of favor with consumers, particularly young adults. In an effort to revitalize the brand and reach those fickle millennials, the marketing pros at The Coca-Cola Company began testing a new campaign in Australia. The concept was simple: replace the words “Coca-Cola” on soda bottles and cans with people’s names and encourage them to share the beverages with friends and family. With that, the “Share a Coke” campaign was born.
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The campaign became a marketing juggernaut, revitalizing sales and quickly going viral. It’s one of the biggest and most recognizable personalization campaigns to date, and The Coca-Cola Company has released variations on the theme with nicknames, titles, and holiday destinations. Though the impact of “Share a Coke” isn’t easily repeatable, marketers can still learn from Coca-Cola’s success.
Start with a Meaningful Call to Action
Let’s face it: younger generations aren’t particularly responsive to advertising. Having grown up with the internet, millennials and zoomers are sharply aware of the ad environment and aren’t fans of the hard sell. Coca-Cola’s campaign would have been over before it began if the brand had not taken the call to action in the right direction.
What’s brilliant about the phrase “Share a coke” is that it’s not just a slogan — it’s a suggestion. However, it’s not pushy; “buy a coke” wouldn’t have worked here, even if that was the company’s ultimate goal. It’s a bit risky from a branding perspective to replace the company logo with a new catchphrase, but the gamble paid off. Marketers shouldn’t be afraid to take a calculated risk to get their message across.
Sharing is Caring
“Share a Coke” turned out to be a prophetic name for Coca-Cola’s iconic campaign, but it wouldn’t have worked as well at any other point in history. By 2011, global smartphone penetration had reached 27%, a figure that’s grown steadily ever since. It was easier than ever to take high-quality photos and share them with the world, particularly on thriving social media channels like Twitter and Facebook. That’s precisely what Coke drinkers began doing when they saw their names on soda bottles. When Coca-Cola expanded its efforts to include nicknames like “better half” and “bro,” consumers had even more reasons to share the love.
The Coca-Cola Company capitalized on consumers’ unabating need to broadcast their day-to-day activities with the #shareacoke hashtag, encouraging people to post their finds. To this day, the hashtag is still fairly active on social media. The lesson is clear: creating something that consumers are excited to show off can make a campaign into a social phenomenon.
It’s Not About Names — It’s About Connections
At their core, personalization campaigns are about making your consumers feel seen and appreciated. For many people, names are a core part of their identities, so seeing that name on a soda bottle instantly grabs their attention. Those of us who bought personalized Coke bottles knew Coca-Cola wasn’t speaking to us, specifically, but it was still fun to dig through a convenience store freezer and find our names.
Coca-Cola continued to expand the “Share a Coke” campaign to include more diverse names and eventually let people order their own customized Coke bottles. The company’s marketing efforts led to an entirely new revenue stream, and it all started with the most basic personal connection one can make: acknowledging another person’s name.
Ten years after Coca-Cola changed the world with an ad campaign — again — marketers are well aware of the positive effects of personalization marketing. However, there’s always more to learn, and the enduring success of “Share a Coke” makes a great case study in the importance of making personal connections with consumers.