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Brands must evolve, says Coca-Cola SVP

Brands need to keep up with the pace of innovation and consumers’ interests to retain and build value, said Wendy Clark, SVP of integrated marketing communications and capabilities at The Coca-Cola Co., during a keynote address at the ad:tech New York conference on Nov. 10.

“Evolution is absolutely mandatory for marketers because, by definition, the landscape is constantly changing and therefore we must change constantly,” she said.

In addition to creating shareable content, brands need to focus on how that content is distributed, Clark said. She said that Coca-Cola views media as owned, earned, shared and paid “in that order.” The company has developed a paid investment model that is trisected among what currently works (the now), what the company must experiment with (the next), and what is on the periphery (the next).

“Done well, each of these spaces informs the next,” said Clark. “Your next informs your new, your new informs your now, and you start to create innovation within your company.

As an example of the now, Clark pointed to a Sprite mobile marketing program conducted around the NBA All-Star Slam Dunk Contest in February that asked consumers to text in their votes for the contest’s champion and opt in for a chance to receive a call from LeBron James. The program received 728,000 unique voters and 100,000 calls from LeBron, she said.

“One of the fundamental beliefs [of Coca-Cola’s marketing program] is no dead ends. So when someone texts, we want to pick up that relationship,” Clark said.

Clark cited Coca-Cola’s trial with the Google Wallet mobile payment system as an example of what’s new. The company is running the trial in 200 vending machines across North America.

“The combination of mobile commerce and location-based technology for us moves our business from the point-of-sale to the point-of-thirst, and that’s a significant shift for us. We know where you are and that you’re thirsty, and we can get you to the nearest outlet to solve that thirst,” said Clark.

She said Coca-Cola’s approach to experimentation is “we lean into what’s next, but we don’t get distracted by it.” Clark brought on stage Renny Gleeson, global director of interactive strategies at Coca-Cola’s agency Wieden & Kennedy, who said that Coca-Cola is working with the Portland Incubator Experiment (PIE) to determine how Coca-Cola can use loyalty points as currency.

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