Coke: Still unclear on the concept

by Mathew on November 8, 2006 · 10 comments

After the amazing Diet Coke-Mentos video from the guys at exploded onto the scene thanks to YouTube (and later Revver), there was a sharp divide between the reaction from Mentos and Coca-Cola. The Italian company that makes Mentos saw it as free advertising and immediately wanted to do something with the Eepybird team — saying they probably got $10-million worth of free viral advertising from the clip. Coke effectively looked down its nose and sniffed.

diet coke

A little while ago I wrote that Coke appeared to have finally grabbed a clue, because they were involved in an online contest with the Eepybird guys (also on Revver, as someone from the video site points out in my comments). As it turns out, though, it sounds more like they were dragged kicking and screaming (or whining) into clue-land, according to this story at MediaPost.

John Stichweh, director of global interactive marketing, cast doubt on whether the company thinks engagement is a goal worth pursuing. The measurement that really matters, he said, is sales. “How many more cases of Coke am I selling? I don’t know,” he said at the Ad:Tech conference in New York.

According to the story, the Coke exec also questioned whether doing interactive or “user-generated” advertising was any cheaper than a multimillion-dollar ad campaign in traditional media, saying that online campaigns are cheaper up front but “there is a cost element in terms of internal labor.”

I guess he’s got a point — if by “internal labor” you mean paying someone to run around at headquarters pulling people’s heads out of the sand and showing them how to click on the “most popular” link at YouTube.

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  • Angela Wilson Gyetvan

    Hi, Mathew:

    Thanks for the coverage. I do need to mention that the Extreme Diet Coke and Mentos Experiment debuted this summer on Revver, not YouTube. As a matter of fact, Fritz and Stephen specifically requested that folks NOT post their videos on YouTube because EepyBird derived no compensation for the views. If you’ll look at the EepyBird site, you’ll see the original “Revverized” video: We did approach Coke about advertising on the video at the time, but they were not interested. Mentos, however, bought out the entire inventory.

  • Mathew Ingram

    Thanks, Angela. I did mention the Revver connection pretty high up, but I will make it clear that the Coke campaign also involved Revver and not YouTube. Thanks for stopping by.

  • Meg

    Matthew, you couldn’t be more correct, my friend. Coca-Cola’s John Stichweh is missing the entire point of marketing in today’s ever changing world. Coke MUST bring the product closer to the people. It’s not so much about selling more cases of Coke as it is about engaging a very elusive and hard to reach demo by embracing their creativity. Coke knows they must acknowledge the consumer and they will continue to do it in even bigger ways, despite the Stichweh’s of the organization. Stichweh’s are important, too. Stichweh’s are old school. Coke needs its bottle-pushers. Stichweh has his place as a good bottle-pusher at Coke or at any beverage concern. But Esther Lee, Mary Minnick and Chuck Fruit have all wondered out loud how to “make Coke bigger while acting smaller” and how to “engage” the public. HELLO! They’ve gone outside traditional agencies to find new ideas that engage AND defy the very savvy TiVo, iPod, CGM/UGC generation. They may have taken a cautious approach at first, but they’re hip now and if they’re smart, they will lead the way in revolutionizing advertising/marketing as we (and Stichweh) once knew it instead of watching and waiting and listening to their bottle-pushers. They need to listen to Mary Minnick, who is a visionary. They will.

  • joy

    I was in that session at Ad Tech where Stichweh spoke, and where was asked about the Eepybird episode.

    As it turns out, he has only been employed by Coke for four months, and he wasn’t even present for the decision making process behind the Eepybird decision. He tread very, very carefully around the question…and I think, it gives his quote a different meaning.

    But, yes, elsewhere he did say the main measurement for engagement was, in the end, sales. And while some readers could question that, no other session at Ad Tech could come up with a better answer. Even the session with Ze Frank.

  • Mathew Ingram

    Thanks for the comment, Joy — but I’m not sure that it’s all that relevant how long Mr. Stichweh had been at Coke, or whether he was involved in the Eepybird decision or not. My point is that if he doesn’t recognize engagement as being valuable then I think he needs to give his head a shake.

    As for the main measurement of engagement being sales, obviously the measurement of a business like Coke’s is always going to be sales. But where do you look for the sales impact of engagement with your brand — two weeks out? Two months out? Two years out? I think smart brands take a leap of faith at some point that engagement is going to translate into sales, even if it isn’t immediately noticeable.

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