With who??

First, a quick (and eventually constructive) dig at Coca Cola for (in my view) not nailing the key message and behavioural design in the ‘Share a Coke’ campaign as well as undermining its long-term brand equity.

Then some overdue praise for Channel Nine Australia’s TV show “The Block” for completely nailing it despite having next to nothing to launch their campaign from.

Share a what?
Why would anyone try and throw the ‘Share a Coke’ campaign under the bus?!

I accept it might not be the most welcome of rants I guess, especially given the campaign’s touted success, but it’s worth putting an alternative view out there all the same.

Despite being given some awards, the ‘Share a Coke with (name)‘ campaign is in my view nothing to write home about as a strategy because it isn’t conducive to how people in reality would ordinarily behave, or might want to behave, and it sets up latent damage to Coke’s long-term leading dominance as a brand.

“Share a Coke with Simon”? Sorry, but what does that mean?

Imagine that I am a consumer of Coke (which I am) and tell me, what should I actually do? …

- Should I stop in the middle of drinking my beloved serving of super suds, crack out two tumblers from the kitchen and pour some for both Simon and I??

- Or perhaps Simon and I take turns swigging from the same can??

- Got it! I could just give Simon a bottle with his name on it for him to drink on his own whilst I enjoy the metaphorical concept of us sharing due to the fact that we do, as part of our everyday lives, share the same experience of drinking Coke??

- How about if I buy a bottle for Simon with my name printed on it, plus a bottle for me with ‘Simon’ printed on it and we each drink the bottle with the other’s name on it??

- Or is it just about doing a pretend share, or “cybershare” in the form of a photo of a personalised Coke product to Simon via social media??

It would come as a shock to me if any human being has ever sat down and shared a single serve Coca Cola with another human being, ever.

Enough critique, what’s an alternative solution?!
I could understand something printed on a Coke like “Simon’s Coke?” (with Coke’s usual logo in place as the largest font of course!) in which case we’d have a natural human exchange setting whereby I could just give Simon a bloody Coke! :)

This suggestion is only a small difference, but it would have made all the difference. Simply, the campaign could have been the “Your Coke” campaign. For example, “Simon’s Coke”, “Santa’s Coke”, “Blitzen’s Coke”. And with the Coca Cola logo included next to the name display, thus maintaining brand equity despite the deviation. Perhaps something like “Coca Cola presents … (small font) Simon’s Coke (large font)”

In addition to the added coolness due to us not being instructed to share (people share if they want to, the marketers job is to set the scene whereby sharing occurs at the initiation of the consumer), the labelled Coke can indeed be shared with Simon or by Simon if he so wishes, and it can be given to Simon and kept enshrined as a paper weight in his study for years, because it’s Simon’s Coke.

The success of the Share campaign comes from Coca Cola’s incredibly strong brand positioning, its undeniable copious amount of awareness that floats around everywhere. My humble view is that the success doesn’t come from the behavioural design aspects of the strategy as it was executed. Further, that with a couple of small embellishments it could have achieved mid- and long-term success.

Also, regardless of the short-term sales increase from the campaign, there will long-term disadvantage experienced by Coca Cola. The proliferation of a visually disabled Coca Cola product featuring no logo in shot absolutely most definitely undermines brand equity and negates any short-term sales increase as the ensuing months/years pan out.

One of the least favourable ideas anyone can come up with is to mess around with or temporarily disfigure, omit or replace the name or logo on a product. Call me old school if need be, I’ll get over it.

The sad fact is, long-term brand equity gets little or no attention these days, particularly in the more short-term panicky type cultures, which funnily enough end up being the same markets in which solid challenger brands capitalise and take market share from historic/iconic megabrands.

If Coke’s Share campaign instead had a more spot-on ownership/gift-giving focus andleft the logo in place amidst the money shot on the cans/bottles, short-term sales would have been even higher and Coke wouldn’t have to worry about other brands muscling in on its long-term brand equity as they can now do at their leisure.

My guess would be that the ensuing next development of the campaign that asks people to share a song from a particular year in the nostalgic past will show markedly lower results due to the same (as I said only slightly less than favourable) behavioural design that’s been replicated.

Better would be to stick with named cans/bottles, and up the engagement and social media frenzy side …. something like … (I’m thinking) …. maybe print three lucky winners’ first andlast names on a small number of Cokes city by city across Australia, and the first people to find the two-named cans and deliver the matching person their specialised can is rewarded with a prize or experience worth a few thousand bucks. It’s got a bit of Willy Wonka about it and the free TV coverage would be great.

On a lighter note, it’s not all down talk for Coke here … at around the time of the Share campaign they brought out this groovy red cricket bat handle that you can screw into a plastic 2-litre bottle to have yourself an instant game of indoor cricket – brilliant!

“The Block” – wildly successful despite hardly any investment and no pre-existing market dominance.
Australia’s Channel Nine TV show The Block enjoyed such great results in 2011′s series 4 due to clever activation, planning, and execution, not to mention good old lady luck, which is always good fuel for marketing whether such luck be fully accidental or not.

The so-called “miraculous” result of 3,000,000 TV views of the finale episode was, it seems, put down to exactly that – a miracle.

No one (that is, no article, no news bulletin, no reporter, no marketer etc) has yet sung any praises of The Block’s incredible performance, that is, the natural consumer participation, psychological buy-in and real sharing of an experience that it achieved.

Some reviewers quoted key ingredients for success such as atmosphere, some said casting, one even said it was Ikea!

For me, without a shadow of a doubt it was the way that people lining up for hours to see The Block’s renovated properties felt engaged as individuals and as groups, the way they were engaged, and indeed the way they primed their friends and families with general (natural and real) communication about their participation that caused the excellent ratings result.

So why, psychologically, is this so?

Melbourne: 25,000 people line up in Richmond to inspect houses on “The Block”. The show had no great audience to begin with, and the success was not due to a buoyant property market.

- cognitive dissonance
The fact is that in the minds of the participants at the public viewing who lined up on the streets of Melbourne for hours to catch a glimpse of the cast and houses that were given a make-over, there was thenceforth a cheeky little thing known as cognitive dissonance at work.

Most importantly (and this is what every great marketer should be looking for), there was more than one sub-paradigm of the psychosocial phenomena at work concurrently. In the case of The Block, there was both the Induced Compliance Paradigm as well as the Effort Justification Paradigm at work. And there was also a touch of the Free Choice Paradigm at work. The above link explains this in more detail.

Cognitive Dissonance is well researched, well supported, is very real and current and all the rest of it, and has even been thoroughly cross-checked with Capuchin monkeys!

When designing campaigns and channel planning be sure to keep Cognitive Dissonance in mind (both defensively and pro-actively) along with the continuum concept – at all times.

- escalation of commitment
Another more obvious, yet equally effective (and often capricious) phenomena amongst these here human things, is called the escalation of commitment.

In the sense that pride matters more once a struggle ensues (in this case the choice between two competing shows) an escalation of commitment effect was present in tens of thousands of viewers following their on-street participation which of course they passed on to others they knew in the form of supportive gesturing towards The Block in their verbal, everyday, and social media communications prior to the finale – drawing on support from in-group/s to help reduce their anxiety, as is seen all the time in everyday behaviour.

In sum
When faced with the thought “Should I watch The Block or The Renovators?” by the end of the 2011 series, a number of people were, by their very human nature, left with no choice but to support The Block.

Escalation of commitment also recycles with the moon and yearly so no doubt the results will be similar if not better throughout 2012. The consumer has become engaged.

Channel Ten could have spent another $20 million promoting The Renovators in 2011 and maintained a technically ‘better’ show (dare I say), ie their more ‘proven’ Master Chef formula (dare I say) and it would not have mattered in the slightest, The Block would still have emerged victorious.

Engagement alone is not the answer, it’s natural engagement built on the foundation of small-scale investment by customers that matters.

In evolutionary psychology – the obvious yet oft-ignored information charting the way of the future in so many things, including marketing – there are mechanisms existent within and about the human condition studied and revealed which go even deeper than the ‘sub-cutaneous’ social phenomena discussed above.

You can utilise them in every aspect of your marketing to ensure that whatever you do will at the very least be ‘better than the rest’ each and every time, if you take the time to study, understand, and apply them.

There is also plenty of the more shallow structures involving the senses and the attitudinal behaviour and biases of us ‘social actors’ to be exploited once an evolutionary basis is formed within or by your idea. It doesn’t have to be all that spooky Freudian Darwin stuff, however that stuff ought not be ignored at base.

For stronger, more powerful and ultimately more reliable truths, the deeper things driving us need to be understood and covered off by someone on the team, such as existential anxiety, mate selection preferences, terror management, mortality salience etc (the list goes on) as these mental realities constitute the primal forces behind anything and everything we think, do, buy, and support

Here in Asia Pacific with more homogeneity (ie similarity of genes and behaviour) within cultures and across peoples, there is no end of opportunities to seize on, even if that be with more shallow concepts and motivational drivers such as ‘nostalgia’ and ‘fear of loss’ as used by Krispy Kreme:

In any case the overall point to highlight here is that the Coke campaign won some (largely self-generated) coverage for its campaign and may even be able to evidence some short-term sales gains, however the view is held that long-term brand equity damage has been done (and will likely show in mid-term numbers/comparisons if crunched through properly and objectively) due to the tampering with the logo and ribbon as well as the unnatural (and let’s face it) pretty pointless interaction setting that was constructed.

Certainly we will not see the consumer still on the bandwagon driving sharing and engagement without being force-fed some more prompts.

If a challenger brand very little or no market share tried the Coke share campaign it would be an absolute disaster, and that’s the main point here – decent results doesn’t always mean great work.

Further, so many sharing, giving and proliferation concepts could have been utilised by Coke, such as making all named Coke’s 50 cents cheaper, together with a more meaningful instruction like “Buy a Coke for Simon” (small investment brings dissonance into play, improves relationship), thence followed by sponsored events which friends could attend together (escalation of commitment in the social context) at which they need to have their named can/bottle (or collectible campaign keyring) to gain entry.

“The Block” created desire, novelty, natural interaction, communal meaning, and it had nice continuity.

It won hearts and minds utilising the power of nature and evolution to engage people without any added or ongoing investment whatsoever, and enjoyed a big win that was all driven almost entirely free of charge by the consumer with little or no prompting. The subtle differences and the marketing efforts of The Block shows in so many ways the best way to go.

And you can expect profits for the contestants to be high for 2012, regardless of Australia’s economic situation or outlook at the time of auction, as well as a hugely successful 2013 as the show ingrains itself as a bastion of early 21st century Australian culture and zeitgeist.

Since 2011, The Block should have been commended by lead marketers, creatives, agency heads, advertisers and academics as an example of brilliant strategy, consumer engagement, and experiential execution.

Strangely, no body did anything of the sort.

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