Coke takes targeted approach to social media

ATLANTA: Marketers using digital media must take a nuanced approach to measuring the impact of their activity on platforms such as mobile and social networks, according to Carol Kruse, vp, global interactive marketing, for The Coca-Cola Company.

As previously reported, Coke has outlined is intention to adopt a "far more aggressive digital presence" in the future, be it on the web or via other emerging interactive mediums.

The owner of Fanta and Sprite already has one of the most popular pages on Facebook, the social network, and has also developed a variety of "apps" for Apple's iPhone.

Kruse suggested that measuring the return on investment from these properties is essential, but added that achieving this aim depends in part on the exact nature of the organisation concerned.

"If you're a traditional sales funnel type of company – if you're selling something online – you could say, 'I know how many sales I got out of that social media app,'" she said.

By contrast, when assessing Coke's performance, this sort of metric does not apply, meaning that other indicators will offer greater insights.

"I can't measure it in actual incremental sales because I'm not selling something online. It's much safer to say we are focusing on measuring the business value of different types of digital marketing," argued Kruse.

"We are asking whether it's driving brand health or brand love. Is it driving purchase intent? In some cases, like search and online advertising, we have been able to measure ROI driving true incremental volumes and true increases in sales."

Despite the challenges for successfully establishing the success of digital media initiatives, Kruse suggested there are tools available which can help brands in this area.

"There are a lot of solutions for getting at engagement metrics-how many people participated, how much time was spent, did they tell a friend and are they a repeat visitor? I think there are perfectly adequate engagement metrics in place," Kruse said.

What is required of marketers, however, is to move beyond the raw data at their disposal, and take a nuanced approach to understanding how each specific action is impacting sales and broader perceptions among consumers.

"We want to take those to the next level which, for us, is driving brand value. It's about bringing incremental increases in brand love, purchase intent and actual purchase," Kruse stated.

One example of the importance of employing a flexible approach was the global launch ofVitaminwater, where tracking enabled Coca-Cola to gain a very clear picture of factors ranging from brand awareness to purchase intent.

This also applies to the Atlanta-based firm's loyalty and CRM schemes, such as My Coke Rewards, which enables customers to exchange "points" accrued from their purchases of its products for items ranging from consumer electronics to apparel goods.

"We have a lot of online promotions and online loyalty programs like My Coke Rewards, and we've certainly measured the amount of true incremental volume those type of programs drive," said Coke's interactive specialist.

One device that is currently "under-utilised by consumer packaged goods companies and other brand companies," she continued, is online search.

"Whether you're selling online or you're a travel company or even an automotive company, consumers are searching. They're raising their hands and expressing their interest. Search shouldn't be relegated to direct marketers," said Kruse.

A number of major advertisers, including Volkswagen, Sprint Nextel and Xerox, have recently adapted their search strategies, as they seek to drive up the payback from using this medium during the downturn.

Whatever channel is being used, however, it is crucial to ensure that any measurement activity does not interrupt consumers.

"If we're going to be there with our brands, we want to be enhancing the experience. You have to be careful how you go about the measurement because you might undo all the goodwill that you have built," Kruse concluded.

Data sourced from eMarketer; additional content by Warc staff

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