Liquid and linked: The Coke side of integrated marketing

When the Coca Cola team presented the ‘Liquid and linked’ marketing communications platform at theCannesseminar this year, I could see that there were more than just a few nods among the audience.

Not only is the Coca Cola one of the most respected and iconic global brand, they are also someone who had throughout the years been able to maintain a truly cohesive brand culture. With the ‘Liquid and linked’ marketing communications, they have actually summarised beautifully one of the common themes atCannesthis year; and have in their own way, rebranded the most talked about definition of integrated marketing.

The digital media had been one of the hot topics in the past few years at Cannes. However, arguably it is only this year when everyone from clients and the creative folks have truly embraced the value and effectiveness of digital media. For creatives like us, we also see this as new playground to create compelling and engaging connections with people.

The challenge in making the most of this new model of marketing communications is how all these interconnected activities and initiatives can be effectively and strategically linked and organised; and instead of purely mist of brilliant small ideas, they should be connected and help to create the most powerful and long lasting brand, that people will remember and ultimately, building long term brand equity.

I foresee there are a few emerging trends:

Ideas need to be organised:

In the ‘Liquid and linked’ working model, there are multiple content created by multiple partners. In the traditional model where it was 30 sec centric, the TVC often takes the lead in shaping and leading the dialogue (if there were a real dialogue at all in the old days). Whereas in the truly integrated model, any kind of media can be at the very centre of the interaction. I think the way Droga5 described their winning entry for Microsoft illustrated the complexity of a truly integrated campaign:

“…The target does not differentiate online from offline, so we built the program across existing media formats and channels but in a new way that wove them together and added interactive to everything. The target audience is wary of marketing messaging and needed to use Bing technology to change any perception of it or increase overall usage. Our campaign worked across media channels in a new way and put the technology at the heart of the marketing…”

When the campaign structure is no longer a simple hierarchy, planning takes on a whole new level of challenge. The need to organise big idea and liberate everybody to do really fantastic thing in each channel is crucial. We also need to make sure all parties involved in the process can benefit from each other’s knowledge and expertise.

This can be achieved through a combination of technology (building the basic logic to the system, enabling knowledge transfer and asset sharing) but more importantly, it needs a truly visionary leadership who can mastermind a unique roadmap of the brand story.

Co-creation and collaboration is more important than ever:

Co-creation and creative collaboration is something I have been advocating for many years having worked with a network of creative talents in different countries. But now with the benefit of technology and the open-mindedness of clients, it has become a truly powerful way of working. And indeed, this means the traditional agency structure is being threatened and that’s why this year atCannes, agency roster is a huge debate and full-service agency is almost becoming outdated. Research indicated that today, global clients usually review their lead creative agency every two years. The key to keep your client is constantly being able to reinvent yourself and able to partner with a wide spectrum of creative talents. Change is the new constant has never been so true.

However, co-creation and collaboration should not be confused with crowdsourcing of creative content. I think we seem to have blurred the definition to an extent that I feel slightly uncomfortable with. Dave Alberts from Mofilm put it nicely as ‘curated crowdsourcing’ – instead of simply aggregating raw creative content from an open source, they encourage creatives to focus on a shared brand objectives and build storytelling around it.

Crowdsourcing without strategic thinking on the brand has the danger of creating communications that is simply generic to the category, and not something that builds on the brand history, vision and future direction.

New approaches in linking global content and local content:

As we increasingly strive for content that is ‘so contagious that cannot be controlled’ (in the words of the Cola Cola’s model), the traditional way of localising global campaign need to be reconsidered. Not only there is no one size fits all solution, it’s increasingly important to be able to create local content that ‘linked’ to the global platform rather than simply a versioning exercise. The new trend is global coordination and local customisation; and when we talk about customisation, we are also talking about transforming content from one media to another locally, using the most powerful way of communications in each local market.

To global brands: what kind of ‘liquid and linked’ marketing communications is suitable for you? Do you give space for your creative talents to try out new ideas that are contagiously brilliant? Are your agencies able to create content that are well-connected and ‘linked’ in the increasing complex media landscape?

To creatives: Are you still thinking in the old fashioned 30 sec centric way or are you able to approach in a media neutral manner? How connected are you with other creative talents working on different media of the campaign?

Here you can see a video archive of Coca-Cola Content 2020 presentation by Jonathan Mildenhall: