Happiness Bubbles Out of Coca-Cola’s Customer Experiences

Rare is the neutral customer experience. “At each touchpoint, we either win or lose,” Brad Rencher said during the opening keynote at the Adobe Summit 2015. 

According to Rencher, Adobe’s SVP and GM of digital marketing, two key elements of the customer experience—being consistent and being continuous—will determine whether brands win or lose with their customers. These factors require marketers to recognize their customers, love them, and acknowledge their histories wherever and whenever they are, he said.

And even though today’s connected devices and access to data enable marketers to deliver more delightful experiences to their customers, he said, it also gives them more opportunities to fail. “Being consistent and continuous is more and more important than ever,” Rencher said, “and it’s becoming harder and harder every day.”

Adobe customer Coca-Cola is one brand that has delivered consistent and continuous experiences for customers for 128 years. 

“When you think about what we’re trying to do, it’s continuously create happiness experiences,” Lorie Buckingham, chief development officer at The Coca-Cola Company, said during the presentation. 

But this hasn’t been easy. Coca-Cola has to find new ways to create these consistent and continuous happiness experiences over the years. Consider, for instance, Coca-Cola’s Happiness Flag. As a sponsor of the 2014 World Cup, Coca-Cola wanted to find a way to bring soccer enthusiasts together to celebrate the sporting event. And while creating a sense of global camaraderie seemed easy to achieve among game attendees in Brazil, Coca-Cola also wanted to generate a sense of togetherness among people who were watching the matches from home. So, marketers at Coca-Cola decided to create a flag based on a design that a local artist had painted that incorporated images of soccer and Coca-Cola fans. 

The brand asked people to send in selfies–which people from 207 countries did. Designers for Coca-Cola then pieced together these images to create a digital flag that replicated the artist’s original design. But that’s not all. Coca-Cola then made a physical flag based on its digital design and unfolded it on the field at the World Cup. Participants could go online and zoom in on the flag to find their actual selfie image.

“For us, it’s creating these experiences and then [thinking] how do we leverage them?” Buckingham said.

But creating consistent and continuous experiences doesn’t mean being predictable. “You need to surprise people in this world,” Buckingham added.

To do that, Coca-Cola created the Coke Hug Machine. Here’s how it worked: During college finals week—often a stressful time for students—Coca-Cola set up a vending machine at a college campus in Singapore that dispensed Coke cans for the price of a hug.


Consumers aren’t the only ones who benefit from these experiences. Coca-Cola also benefits–by gaining insight. Take the beverage brand’s Freestyle Machine, for instance. The machine provides consumers with their own personal soda fountain, Buckingham explained, and enables them to customize their own beverage. Analyzing what beverages customers create provides priceless insight. “You didn’t just connect with us in the moment,” Buckingham said, “You created the next product for us.”

Buckingham added that Coca-Cola has also placed beacons on its vending machines to help stores better identify where its customers are roaming. “We had machines where no one even walked,” she said.

However, marketers can’t create these consistent and continuous customer experiences alone. They need to go beyond marketing, Adobe’s Rencher said, and implement silo-free, data-driven approaches across the rest of the organization. Now that’s an idea that’s truly refreshing. 

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