Coca-Cola, the world's largest nonalcoholic beverage producer, slipped from #1 place to #3 in last year's Best Global Brands ranking. Though it's holding steady in this year's ranking, its future brand strength is now perched at the nexus of challenge and opportunity. The 128-year-old soft drink giant continues to evolve as markets have changed and, through innovation, is staying ahead of trends. It is seeing growth in emerging markets, but is currently experiencing troubled waters in North American market share.
To satisfy increasingly health-conscious consumers, the brand launched Coca-Cola Life, the first version of its classic soft drink to be sweetened naturally with stevia, in Argentina and Chile in 2013. (Coca-Cola Life launched in the U.S. and U.K. markets in 2014.) Coca-Cola's recent acquisitions include: the acquisition of coconut water brand ZICO, the acquisition of 10 percent of Keurig Green Mountain Inc., and the acquisition of 17 percent of Monster Beverage Corp. Equally responsive to consumer concerns about sustainability, Coca-Cola plans to use its PlantBottle technology in all its bottles by 2020. It has also partnered with brands like Nike, P&G, and Heinz to accelerate the development of products made from plants, and it is now breaking new ground with Ford by applying PlantBottle technology to automotive interiors.
"Happiness in a bottle" still retains universal recognition, which was most evident during Coca-Cola's successful 2014 FIFA World Cup campaign. From unveiling its photomosaic "The Happiness Flag" at the start of the games to launching event-themed music and moving spots across platforms in hundreds of markets, Coca-Cola showed how it effortlessly connects emotionally, both locally and globally.
Coca-Cola's global "Share a Coke" campaign, now in version 2.0, taps into self-expression and individual storytelling, and deepens its connection with individual consumers-particularly Millennials. By placing popular first names and colloquial nicknames on its cans and bottles, "Share a Coke" seeks to get on a first-name basis with younger consumers and use social media to amplify real moments shared by fans. A testament to Coca-Cola's ability to create experiences that unify and engage people across social, cultural, and geographical divides, the brand has increased sales volume by two percent, Facebook followers by 25 million, and servings to 1.9 billion per day-despite less than optimal economic environments.
The opportunity lies in continuity to strengthen connections with Millennials and addressing trends such as the shift away from sweet, carbonated beverages to high energy and health-conscious ones, especially in North America and Western Europe. Having already made clear headway into the personal lives of consumers, perhaps the key to future success lies in figuring out the nature of the Coca-Cola Mecosystem and unlocking the full potential promised by the Age of You.