Digital professional: Simon Miles

Simon Miles, digital director, Coca-Cola Enterprises.

Simon Miles

Marketing Week (MW): Many people mistakenly believe that Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE) is part of The Coca-Cola Company. Can you explain what CCE does?

Simon Miles (SM) : The Coca-Cola Company owns the brands, does the advertising and has the ‘magic formula’ to create Coke, and they sell that to a network of bottlers around the world. CCE is the largest bottler in western Europe. We manufacture, sell and distribute to retailers and wholesalers. On the marketing side, we do most of the shopper marketing.


MW: What does that mean for CCE’s digital marketing?

SM : The Coca-Cola Company does a fantastic job of building brand love, and part and parcel of that these days is things like social media. Where my team becomes involved is in taking that brand love and making it part of your life as a shopper. That’s one part of it and the other is ecommerce – working with and Ocado, for example, on how our products appear on the websites and the promotions we run.


MW: How much autonomy do you have in developing CCE’s marketing strategy?

SM : There’s no point in me trying to develop my own digital strategy that is not a part of what The Coca-Cola Company does. We understand what it is trying to do from a consumer behaviour point of view and then we take that and deliver it in the channels for which we responsible. For example, during the World Cup a lot of content has been generated for us by the Coca-Cola team. They know strategically how they want to communicate that the World Cup is happening and our sponsorship of it, but how we execute that and bring it to life with our retail customers is where I’m involved.


MW: Last year’s ‘Share a Coke’ campaign, where consumers were able to buy bottles personalised with their name, is being revisited this summer. How has CCE been involved?

SM : We ran it for the first time last summer and because it was generating so much interest about how consumers find their name, we thought we must be able to fulfil that digitally with one of our customers. On Ocado’s website, shoppers were able to scroll down a list of the available names. It was the only place in the country where consumers could order their name on a label.

This year, we have been working with The Coca-Cola Company and people will be able to go onto a direct-to-consumer website to order their name, which will be on a glass bottle.


MW: How important is it to have marketing activity to follow up the World Cup?

SM : You have peaks in the year that you have to build around – Christmas will be another one and Coca-Cola Life [a soon-to-be launched variant sweetened with stevia] will be too. We are also launching ‘smart water’ under the Glacéau brand, which is an interesting move. From a selfish online perspective it is important because one of the distinctive features about online sales versus in-store is that, because of the profile of the shopper, water sales are really high.


MW: In-store shopper marketing traditionally involves a lot of printed point-of-sale materials, so where does the digital side come in for CCE?

SM: We still market heavily in cardboard, but now as much of that happens on mobile. As part of the World Cup we have been pushing our 4 x 1.5 litre packs. We have geo-fenced the top 100 Tesco stores and people will receive text messages promoting our offers as they get within the car park of the store. We have partnered with Weve and Vouchercloud, but there are lots of providers we work with.


MW: Location-based marketing has been criticised in the past for being ineffective and largely driven by indiscriminate discounting. Has anything changed?

SM : When you look back at what brands have been trying, it has been blunt. It is only now that we are getting to the stage where the geography that can be used [to target a consumer’s mobile] is small enough that it will work, provided brands are making an offer that is relevant and in context instead of just blasting stuff at people.

If you know a customer is in Tesco’s car park, there is a good chance they are going into the store and if you can link that data with people’s purchase histories, then you can be really smart and targeted. 

We have also been testing weather-related marketing this year, where we target only if the temperature goes above a certain point because that is when there is a real spike for soft drinks. That is where relevance and context comes in and I think that is how you increase response rates.


MW: What technology and ad formats are you using to execute your mobile strategy?

SM : We have a model of 70-20-10. You can only move at the pace at which shoppers will adopt the technology. So 70 per cent of what we do is at scale, in other words texts and MMS messages. If you want to use apps such as Blippar and Snapchat, that’s fine, they have got a place, but you’re probably talking to about 10 per cent of people. You do not get much response rate but it is interesting, because it might become big. Beacons are probably going to be huge, so we are learning how that works now in order to be ready when it does scale up.


MW: Mobile display advertising doesn’t have a great reputation. Do you believe it can be effective?

SM : We have found some ways where it has been reasonably effective. At Upper Crust kiosks in train stations, we ran mobile banners as people were surfing. It was relevant because we knew where people were and it was in context because it was the right time of day. When you can pinpoint elements, that is where it becomes acceptable. If it is just random, that is when people have become unstuck in the past.


MW: Is CCE also responsible for distributing Coca-Cola through vending machines?

SM : Yes, we operate those. We are conducting trials at Birmingham University with PayPal on contactless payment. It will be interesting to see where the vending industry goes and how technology can play a role.

We are testing 25 machines in the market with video screen fronts, so we can think about how we would do day-part messages that are capable of being interactive as well. In the Five Guys burger restaurant in Uxbridge, we have Coke ‘freestyle’ machines that have a touch screen and up to 120 flavour combinations. If you want a Coke with cherry, vanilla and orange, you can have it. Those are really interesting for premium outlets.


MW: How is digital changing CCE’s relationships with retailers?

SM : The scale of digital has become huge. Our team has grown from three to 10 in the past 18 months. It’s going to be one of their key growth drivers for a long time.

The grocers have done a lot of work on their own capabilities in terms of the systems they are running. They have upgraded the functionality of their websites. We do a lot of joint activity, for example ‘if you like that, try this’ or putting different products together as a bundle. 


MW: What’s your advice for other digital marketers looking to drive retail sales?

SM : Mobile is the place to start. It’s something people have with them all the time, and if we want to be part of the shopper’s journey, we need to understand how we can play a role without being intrusive. Personalisation will be huge over the next few years. The thing to watch out for is if one person gets an offer on Coke but their friend does not, that’s not going to make the friend very happy, so you have to work out how you reward the right behaviour for everybody.

Interview by Michael Barnett


2013 – present

Digital director

Coca-Cola Enterprises

2012 – 2013

Associate director, grocery

Coca-Cola Enterprises

2010 – 2012

Associate director, shopper marketing

Coca-Cola Enterprises                          

2008 – 2010

Head of planning

Coca-Cola Enterprises

2006 – 2008

Business planning controller

Coca Cola Enterprises

2000 – 2003

Marketing director

International Sportsworld Communicators

1982 – 1999

Marketing manager and other roles

Rothmans International

Econsultancy Intelligence: David Moth

David Moth
Deputy editor, Econsultancy

As a globally recognised and much-loved brand, Coca-Cola has an enviable position within the FMCG market. While other brands and distributors have to focus their marketing efforts on driving awareness, as a bottling company Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE) can afford to be more experimental and innovative in the way that it tells stories and engages with consumers.

Digital plays a huge role in this because it allows CCE to deliver more personalised interactions both in-store and online, with mobile being a particularly exciting area of opportunity. One obvious example is the ‘Share a Coke’ campaign.

This simple idea was responsible for increasing sales by 10 per cent in 2013, so it’s no surprise that CCE has chosen to reinvigorate the initiative for 2014. Digital media is central to the campaign and activity kicked off on social media in June.

A mobile-optimised microsite has been created that lets consumers search for their name and place an order for a personalised glass bottle, which is fulfilled through CCE. People can also share a Coke selfie or download wallpapers.

All the social activity around the #shareacoke hashtag will be brought together in the Name Dropper app, which is designed to give consumers crowd-sourced information on where to find a personalised bottle. An experiential roadshow will visit Tesco stores around the UK, giving shoppers the chance to print their own personalised label.

CCE is also experimenting with beacons and geo-fencing. It’s one of the brands that have run trials with Weve, a mobile marketing joint venture from EE, O2 and Vodafone. It offers location-based messaging options, as well as a mobile wallet.

CCE found that smartphone users prefer entertaining content that they can share, rather than offers and coupons. This will be good news to other mobile marketing platforms, as proofs of concept in this area tend to involve discount vouchers as an incentive for engagement.

However, more work needs to be done before contextual mobile advertising is rolled out en masse to consumers, whether that be with Weve or a different mobile solution.

Beacons use Bluetooth low energy technology to push out messages to smartphone apps within a specific radius. CCE’s marketers could send timely, relevant communications to customers in grocery stores or bars to try to influence their purchase decision. This combination of the right message, the right person and the right time has the potential to be a hugely powerful marketing tool, though there are barriers to be overcome in terms of persuading consumers that the communications are useful rather than creepy.