Be consistent, Stay relevant: Coca Cola’s Venkatesh Kini

27 Apr,2015

Venkatesh Kini

By Dyanne Coelho

 

The International Advertising Association (India Chapter) hosted the ‘IAA Retrospect and Prospects: The Coca-Cola Viewpoint’ seminar in Mumbai, which brought in Venkatesh Kini, President, India and South West Asia, Coca Cola as the keynote speaker. And for those that had assembled at the venue to hear him speak, it was an opportunity worth the wait.

 

Taking the audience right to the moment of reckoning in his career, Kini said “It was only after I quit marketing five years back and made the switch to general management that I realized the world doesn’t revolve around marketing,” He pointed out that Marketing is one of the many things that needs to go hand in hand for a product to be a success. “Coca Cola has been around for 128 years and the one thing we’ve learned is that advertising and marketing truly works”, he said. “Our consumers have helped make the brand what it is and that’s our secret formula,” Kini said, talking about Coca Cola sticking around successfully in the beverage industry for over a century.

 

Presenting a comparative analysis, Kini said that the difference between then and now is that then there existed one screen for many people, and now it’s one person–many screens. The way one connects with consumers has changed, he pointed out. “Everything is moving to a 2”x4” screen,” he said. The concept of a target audience no longer exists, Kini said, that paradigm is changing, as we can no longer focus our communication on one set of individuals. “Your target is no longer a single point, but a node in a network.” The question today is, how does one get a conversation going about a brand and then amplify that conversation through television advertisements, social media, etc. “A consumer today is a great reporter, and twitter is the most widely read newspaper,” he said.

 

Kini gave out a few pointers that he recommends marketers should absolutely not do without. He noted: “Be share worthy, simple, and contemporary, be constructively discontent, be consistent, disruptive, collaborative, and always have a purpose.” Kini spoke of a campaign initiated by Coke in the Philippines. Coke studied the Filipino population and realized that many left the country for better opportunities abroad, and due to very expensive air tickets, some hadn’t seen their families and kids in years and even decades. The campaign was done during the Christmas season, which is an important festival of celebration in the Philippines. Coke bought tickets for some of the Filipinos living abroad and sent them home for Christmas, surprising their families. The advertisement went viral in the Philippines and many other countries, not simply because of the brand Coke, but because the story was touching and share worthy, Kini stated.

 

Coke has managed to keep the brand contemporary even after 128 years. It is important to keep the brand relevant for today’s consumers and evolve with them, he said, citing the example of the remake of Coke’s 1971 hilltop ad. In the hilltop ad of 1971, Coke gathered people from different parts of the world on a hilltop in Italy, where they sang, ‘I’d like to buy the world a Coke, it’s the real thing.’ This ad was a huge success in the 1970s and Coke wanted to reinvent and contemporize the ad for today’s consumers. So they partnered with Google and Google pitched the idea of actually creating a technology wherein people from one part of the world could actually buy a coke for a stranger on the other side of the globe. They came up with special vending machines, where you could pay for a coke in one country and someone in the country you chose would receive a free coke. The receiver could also send back a thank you message. This is how Coke has constantly reinvented itself, Kini said, “We haven’t reinvented or logo, product, or the color of our packaging, we’ve merely evolved with our consumers.”

 

Talking about being disruptive in your marketing strategy, Kini cited the example of Coke Studio, where the company spent little or no money on advertising. The concept of Coke Studio was so unique that it automatically grabbed eyeballs, he stated. “We have given several emerging independent musicians a platform to showcase their own music through Coke Studio. No Bollywood music has been used. Simultaneously, we’ve also brought about the revival of folk music through Coke studio,” Kini added proudly. This out of the ordinary form of marketing is what has created a loyal fan following, he said. “There is a lot of value to doing the unexpected and unconventional.”

 

Kini spoke about the CSR initiative that Coke has been working on in collaboration with NDTV. Support my School is an initiative by Coca Cola and NDTV by which they visit schools in rural areas and assist in the renovation, building toilets, playgrounds, etc. “We can’t thrive unless the communities we serve thrive. We ought to appeal to a higher purpose,” Kini said emphatically.

 

Kini ended on a lively note, citing the example of the Coke ad wherein Coke arranged for a team of blind footballers to be able to touch and hold the FIFA World Cup. Usually the FIFA Cup can only be touched by the winning team and heads of state. Coke made it possible for these physically impaired young boys to be able to touch the cup of their dreams. This again was a story of having a higher purpose, Kini said, that’s why it got shared and became popular.

 

Storytelling is the way forward, Kini added, and the story has to connect with human emotions. “The future is in the power of a story well told,” he concluded.

 

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