Using a list program in lieu of a national television campaign, Coca-Cola is targeting teens for a summer promotional blitz in which it expects to issue 55 million Coke Cards in an attempt to drive sales through discounts, offers and cash prizes.
Pepsico, meanwhile, has announced changes to its Pepsi Stuff program, which runs its third season in the summer. But while Pepsi remains focused on in-store and retail distribution and national media for its continuity program, Coke devised the direct mail plan to issue cards before its promotion kicked in.
The beverage giant placed Coke Cards in the hands of 750,000 youths it identified as the country's most influential teens. And each teen received three extra cards to be passed along to friends to add to word-of-mouth advertising. The company's aim was to distribute more than 3 million cards to targeted customers within the two weeks before the start of the promotion.
“Part of the learning we got from the first year was that we needed a tactic to ensure that kids would think the card is cool,” said Diana Garza, media relations manager for Coca-Cola, Atlanta. The company issued 10 million cards last summer and partnered with a few companies. This year, the localized retail program pairs Coke with more than 9,500 partners and features about 20,000 individual discounts and offers throughout the U.S. market. The company developed 300 versions of the card based on the number of deals and participating markets.
“We worked really hard to make sure the card represented something to a teen consumer and that it addresses all of the things that are important to them,” Garza said. “They want to get the most for their dollars, they want cents off and dollars off on activities and deals on athletic wear. We have learning that says they don't mind carrying the card because it has perceived value.”
Coke used an outside marketing agency to generate a list to receive the free card before it was issued at retail.
“We worked with Target Base to help identify a group of influential teens based on certain attributes, like being the captain of the football team or being a team leader,” Garza said. “It seems to have worked. Before the actual promotion launched they received the cards in their hands a solid two weeks before. Within two weeks, 1.2 million cards were distributed. Teens felt a certain sense of elitism if they got it before everyone else.”
A fold-over box greets teens with “Want Inside?” and contains the four cards, a luggage tag and a pass for two to the DreamWorks summer movie “Small Soldiers.” The movie pass will help Coke measure response for the mailing. The card is contained in a sleeve that is attached to an accordion-like fold-out listings with about 50 offers specific to each market. In the Los Angeles market, for instance, recipients can cash in on offers with Domino's Pizza, Blimpie International and Blockbuster Video.
If the sleeve detaches or is lost, the cards feature a toll-free number for an in-bound message that tells callers about local programs after they input their ZIP codes. Although the in-bound program provides Coke with the opportunity to build a database for the card users, the company has decided not to.
“We're not retaining data, but there are consumer affairs folks who will come on live as agents to speak to callers after a series of prompts,” Garza said. “But we found there are basic buckets of information that people need and we wanted to answer them quickly. Additionally, it becomes a cost issue. We were most interested in answering questions rather than getting information.”
Garza declined to disclose the exact cost of the program.
“What we're spending this year is in line with what we have spent in the past, but it's money better spent,” she said. “We are usually in the millions for our summer promotions because it is huge, it's our key season. In the past, we've been able to develop programs from a national perspective and build it locally. This was almost built in reverse.”
The Coke Cards also are being issued through in-store counter displays and through networks of young people distributing the cards at special events.
The program features more than $12 billion in discount savings and offers the opportunity to win ATM cards filled with cash in increments of $20, $40 or $100. About 1.6 million of the ATM cards, which are sponsored by MasterCard, will be issued through Coca-Cola packaging in retail stores. In restaurants a peel-and-win sticker will be used.