Free: $35 Billion Content Marketing Strategy

My dad worked at a Coke bottling plant right out of college, and we were a diehard red-can family - none of that Pepsi stuff allowed in the house.

I ran across this content strategy video from Coca-Cola by accident. It's smart, thorough and as whoever posted it said "This is the best modern content marketing (messaging) strategy video..."

I'm still shaking my head that this is publicly available - heads should be rolling in Atlanta. If you're in content marketing, do yourself a favor and watch it before it becomes unavailable.

If you ask yourself "What does Coca-Cola sell?", the likely answer is soda, or beverages, or sugar water. As of early 2018, the company sold almost as much water as actual Coca-Cola. Watching this long piece on their content marketing strategy (intellectually brilliant; at times, civically infuriating), one could make the argument that Coca Cola is mainly in the attention business, and that they get what that means now.

I read somewhere that Coca-Cola is - or was - the most widely recognized brand on the planet. Kevin Hogan said "Your business IS your potent relationship to a valuable client group." If you think about Coca-Cola in light of that sentence...even if you're not a Coke kid like me...the fizz or not-fizz in the water isn't the business, the brand is.

It's pretty remarkable that a 126-year-old company, in a business that's almost completely unnecessary, would have such a strong 21st-century position. (By "unnecessary" I'm just pointing out the obvious - there's water in the tap, and it's better for you.) The products aren't necessary from a health perspective, and they're not particularly good from a planetary perspective.

But here's the Atlanta juggernaut with the patent-medicine roots looking like the Yoda of the attention economy. The spot they occupy in so many minds IS the business.

A few highlights to ponder:

"Our content is the substance or matter of brand engagement." 7:52

Wow. Kind of a fizzy mouthful, but leave that aside. Wow, do these guys get the content game.

In English, I think that means something like "If we can get people telling and sharing stories that involve, evoke or reference our products, we're in business." Agreed. It's scary astute - 21st-century persuasive marketing at a fever pitch. "We need to stay part of the conversation." If Coke, or Dasani, or a commercial or a jingle are meaningfully-referenceable between people, they stay in business.

Presumably - given the size of the company - someone there has an Excel spreadsheet on all of this. Mass-blasting TV commercials - cost X, benefit Y. Banner ads - cost X, benefit Y. Cultural token-coining (content) - cost X, benefit...why?

It's brilliant, in a way - even Coke can afford to dominate all of the channels, so instead, they're moving up a layer and getting people to do that for them "through every possible connection."

"As such, it has to be the world's most engaging content." 8:00

So Coca Cola is a Netflix competitor? It's no secret that Netflix gets the value of content - here's Coke, saying pretty much the same thing. They're aiming at a different level of attention and engagement - slightly shorter, more coherently related to each other: "Liquid...elements of content that move freely amongst themselves but do not become separated stories...our stories must remain connected."

I'm more than a bit surprised to have stumbled across this video (6 years old, according to the Vimeo entry.) It reads like an internal communication video (we've made a few of them). There's just enough jargon and internal references, and the length isn't what you'd do for a public piece. There are budget numbers, and internal systems references. In other words...WTF...why is this out loose in the public?

If content marketing is something your company is betting on, this is well worth watching. I'm not necessarily saying I like what they're doing, but it's a very well-thought-through strategy. Even if you don't play at Coke's global scale, there are principles to be learned here that are applicable in smaller niches and industries.

"We need to produce liquid ideas that earn a disproportionate share of popular culture."

One of the commenters on the video post (on Vimeo) made the expected anti-sugar-water comment, and said "Great products do not need great marketing." Perhaps, but markets are not meritocracies.

Whether you think sugar and water products are great products, brilliant marketing has kept a $35B business empire growing despite the no-cost alternative flowing from nearby taps. I hope young entrepreneurs run across this, and figure out how to apply the strategies to businesses with positive health and environmental contributions.

It's funny - I gave up Coke years ago, but I still get it. On a hot road trip, I still have the hankering to slam a cold Coke down - damn the sugar, eyes watering, ahhhh kind of moment. Now...getting some insight into the deliberate thought that goes into keeping the lease on that piece of my mind, somehow it just doesn't taste the same.

Matthew Dunn