How Coca-Cola Adds Fizz to its Digital Experiences

by Jamie Brighton

Posted on 04-30-2018

Every time I drink a beer I’m remind­ed of a run­ning fam­i­ly joke. On tak­ing his first sip, my grandad used to say, “if you could bot­tle that, you’d be a mil­lion­aire’.” He was talk­ing very specif­i­cal­ly about that first sip of an ice-cold beer, which is the best and most refresh­ing sip of them all.

I men­tion this because it speaks to some­thing we often for­get about when dis­cussing cus­tomer expe­ri­ences: they’re sen­so­ry expe­ri­ences. When you strip away the mar­ket­ing and get down to brass tacks, the most pow­er­ful expe­ri­ence is the direct con­nec­tion between cus­tomer and product—whether that’s the taste of a drink, the heft of a ten­nis rack­et or the feel of a cash­mere jumper. If we can ampli­fy these moments, we’re help­ing to max­imise the cus­tomer experience.

But in our increas­ing­ly dig­i­tal world, how easy is that? How can we repli­cate the phys­i­cal expe­ri­ence of a brand­ed prod­uct online? Is it even pos­si­ble? One com­pa­ny lead­ing the field here is Coca-Cola, and its efforts car­ry some impor­tant lessons for all ambi­tious marketers.

Digi­tis­ing the Coca-Cola experience

At the heart of Coca-Cola’s approach is the idea that it wants dig­i­tal expe­ri­ences to mir­ror the moment when you crack open a cold can of Coke—when you pour it onto soft­ly jan­gling ice-cubes, lift it to your mouth so that the bub­bles tick­le your nose, and take that first deli­cious sip. In essence, Coca-Cola aims to cre­ate “dig­i­tal fizz.”

This sounds like a tall order—and it is. To attempt some­thing like this requires a deep com­mit­ment to inno­va­tion and to approach­ing dig­i­tal expe­ri­ences in a com­plete­ly new way. But the rewards are clear: unprece­dent­ed dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion and a new route into the hearts and minds of consumers.

Coca-Cola’s start­ing point is the con­sumer. By lis­ten­ing to their feed­back, Coca-Cola’s been able to work out what gets con­sumers excit­ed. They’ve dis­cov­ered there’s a real thirst for choice and new expe­ri­ences. The chal­lenge was to ful­fil these desires in ways that were tru­ly excit­ing, but also res­onat­ed with Coca-Cola’s brand iden­ti­ty and her­itage, mod­ernising their dig­i­tal expe­ri­ences in a way that reflects back to what real­ly matters—the phys­i­cal expe­ri­ence of drink­ing a Coke product.

Freestyling inno­va­tion

I can think of no bet­ter exam­ple of this than Coke’s Freestyle vend­ing machine—a vend­ing machine on steroids, if you like. Its dig­i­tal inter­face allows cus­tomers to cre­ate their own drink flavours, turn­ing them into inno­va­tion col­lab­o­ra­tors. Not only does it pro­vide a com­pelling expe­ri­ence, at the same time the machines gath­er data on cus­tomer pref­er­ences that fuel Coke’s wider cus­tomer engage­ment strat­e­gy. Coca-Cola has dis­rupt­ed the old vend­ing machine mod­el, redefin­ing the expe­ri­ence for its customers.

They didn’t stop there. By lever­ag­ing Adobe Expe­ri­ence Cloud, Coca-Cola has inno­vat­ed an even smarter ver­sion of the Freestyle machine. These updat­ed machines are some­thing to behold. They deliv­er real-time, hyper-per­son­alised con­tent on screen, while mon­i­tor­ing data such as bev­er­age cre­ation, con­sump­tion and social shar­ing. The machines are ful­ly inte­grat­ed with Coke’s mobile apps, allow­ing them to offer cus­tomers even more ways to cre­ate and share that con­tent on Coke’s .com site. Freestyle machines and mobile apps are com­plete­ly synched, keep­ing cus­tomer expe­ri­ences con­sis­tent and up-to-date.

The expe­ri­ence is everything

Coca-Cola’s suc­cess comes down to under­stand­ing that the brand is the prod­uct, and the prod­uct is the brand. Mar­ket­ing and the prod­uct can’t be sep­a­rat­ed; they need to be deliv­ered as a seam­less, con­nect­ed expe­ri­ence that cre­ates an ongo­ing con­nec­tion and dia­logue with consumers.

This is the essence of what we mean by an expe­ri­ence busi­ness: the under­stand­ing that the “fizz” needs to be both phys­i­cal and dig­i­tal. When you con­sid­er your own busi­ness and mar­ket­ing approach, are there ways that you can add some dig­i­tal fizz to your cus­tomer engagement?

On 3–4 May we’re explor­ing this idea in much more depth at the annu­al Adobe Sum­mit EMEA. This is a crit­i­cal moment for com­pa­nies in all indus­tries: dig­i­tal tech­nol­o­gy, con­sumer empow­er­ment and increased com­pe­ti­tion mean that all busi­ness­es need to be in the expe­ri­ence game. Every­one needs to deliv­er the sort of physical/digital crossover expe­ri­ences that Coca-Cola excels at.

Watch this video to learn more about Coca Cola’s inno­v­a­tive approach:

Topics: Adobe Summit, digital marketing, Freestyle vending machine, UK, UK Exclusive, Digital EMEA