Coca-Cola says its marketing is about more than just ‘big budgets’

Coca-Cola’s new marketing director for the UK and Ireland Aedamar Howlett says the business is “much broader than people are aware”, as it takes inspiration from startups.

Coca-Cola

Coca-Cola says despite common perceptions, the company is not all about “big marketing budgets” as it claims it still has a lot to learn from startups.

Speaking on a panel at the Youth Marketing Summit this morning (22 March), the soft drink giant’s new marketing director for the UK and Ireland Aedamar Howlett explained how the business is “much broader than people are aware”.

“We have a lot to learn from startup and development brands. I worked on launching a number of brands, such as ice tea brand Nestea in Ireland, with virtually no marketing budget. I have since brought that mentality with me working across the portfolio,” she explained.

“We always ask ourselves how we can delight and surprise consumers, and what we would do if the brand was your own business, and how you would invest the money. It’s not necessarily all about big budgets.”

When launching any marketing activity, Howlett says it is important to take stock of who you are talking to as well as linking it up to a “crucial insight” and the connection you want to make with consumers. She said this process can be applied to any brand, regardless of scale.

We always ask ourselves what we would do if the brand was your own business, and how you would invest the money. It’s not necessarily all about big budgets.

Aedamar Howlett, Coca-Cola

The fizzy drinks behemoth applied this method to its ‘One Brand Strategy’, which sees its four variants – Coca-Cola, Diet Coke, Coca-Cola Zero Sugar and Coke Life – placed under one ‘master brand’.

She claims it was one of biggest pieces of marketing in its history, and changed everything about how it marketed to consumers. It was consequently followed up with a £10m relaunch of its Coca-Cola Zero Sugar brand, which she said was “marketing at scale and hugely successful”.

“We used every piece of the marketing mix and had great ROI. Coca-Cola Zero Sugar is now the fastest growing cola brand in Great Britain. We wanted consumers to understand the message that it looks and tastes the same as regular Coke but without the sugar – and that message is coming through,” she explained.

When questioned on how Coca-Cola ensures its brands stay true to their values, Howlett pointed to its Honest and Innocent smoothie brands, which “both started small but maintained their authenticity throughout”. To achieve this it was “all about having the right marketing mix” between traditional and social channels.

She concluded: “What’s your content, what’s your connection model and context? All these things are very important to getting the message right. That balance for us is about surprising and delighting consumers with big iconic advertising, but we also have 3.1 million followers on social media. We talk to them every day and have a close connection.”

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