When the celebrated TV series Mad Men wrapped up earlier this year, viewers were left with an iconic moment of marketing genius: Coca-Cola’s “Hilltop” ad. The 1971 commercial, which features a multicultural mix of youths singing “I’d like to buy the world a Coke,” speaks to a simpler time for America—and for the brand.
Now, the world’s biggest beverage brand is trying to recapture that magic for millennials through its “Share a Coke” campaign, a global marketing initiative that began in Australia in 2011. The personalized bottles were so successful in the U.S. in 2014 that the campaign was expanded this year. In September 2015, Coca-Cola teamed up with Twitter to create a custom emoji—two Coke bottles clinking—that appeared in tweets bearing the hashtag #ShareaCoke. The result: a record 170,500 mentions over a 24-hour period.
Few companies can harness the emotional horsepower that Coca-Cola can. The challenge, instead, for the 129-year-old beverage giant is that sales of cola and its carbonated cousins have been declining over the past decade amid health concerns. As a result, the company has broadened its array of lower-calorie and lower-sugar sodas, introduced smaller container sizes, and added healthier beverages to its brand portfolio, ranging from iced tea to coconut water.
Coca-Cola also spent almost USD $120 million over the past five years to fund health and wellness programs—as well as on research that drew criticism for downplaying the role of sugary drinks in causing obesity. Coca-Cola’s commitment to corporate citizenship and sustainability has earned praise, especially for its leadership in water
conservation. Coca-Cola and its bottlers at Coca-Cola Enterprises say they will reach their 2020 goal of replenishing 100 percent of the water they use by the end of this year—five years early. The initiative helped Coca-Cola Enterprises earn its first spot in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index this year.
Despite its slight decline in brand value in this year’s report, Coca-Cola stands firm at number three—a true marketing juggernaut and a favored global brand.