Sanjeev Kotnala: How Coke InNoWait’s and Amplifies

25 Jan,2017

By Sanjeev Kotnala


The world is fragmented more in its media space than in its like and dislikes. The consumer touchpoints have been multiplying exponentially. The attention span is decreasing at an alarming rate. However, the global village allows you to pace your activity. A delta movement (not momentum) can be amplified across the globe to the brand’s advantage. Scaling-up is not really a necessity and the business viability not a deterrent. The brand is more at ease with experimentation than ever before.

Innovation opportunities not only exist in the manufacturing and delivery space but also in the experience, excitement and influencing.

Beverage giant Coca-Cola has been one such company that has been playing with a range innovation from small to large canvas. It is evident in the way they are interacting with the consumers, the design and communication. The basic module of Accessibility, Availability and Affordability is now expanded to Experience, Innovation and amplification.

At first, the timeless contoured bottle created in 1915, seems more of a barrier than an opportunity to innovate. However, when innovation becomes a habit and a culture or business philosophy, then the brand starts seeing opportunities everywhere. It is the ‘InNoWait’ zone.

The brand has been doing great exciting work. There has been numerous innovative outreach programmes, simple modifications, a different perspective in and around delivery and consumption process. In process, every unit has been broken to its last possible managing unit and then explored for opening happiness in its holistic understanding.

Coke has been one company that seems to believe in ‘InNoWait’. That is no waiting for innovation. They have used  team work and challenging deadline projects to  forces innovative solutions. The best part is that such solutions  have neither remained on paper, nor have they found their way to the dustbin. The brand seems to be a compulsive experimenter, a necessity for following ‘InNoWait’ as a philosophy.

The trick is to ‘Do it because you want to, not because you think you must. And most important, do it right and go crazy. You will do such experiments, when you truly believe that the world today is a chaotic always in flux place. Here the past success is no guarantee for future success’. (Coco-Cola Company)

The consumer is more demanding and there is a more intangible than tangible association that make the brand gain the growth momentum.


The Innovation thought is not only about thinking differently.

It is also about being able to see the idea in its full-grown version and then supporting it with detailed defined execution.

And the journey really starts by defining what you stand for and how o you see the brand-consumer relationship.

Here are some of the NOT-SO-ADVERTISING innovations by Coke that speak about its intent. They reiterate the need to be innovative as a philosophy, ‘InNoWait’- not waiting, taking the idea, experimenting and scaling or amplifying in the global arena.



TWIST CAP To open this cap, you must find another bottle. The specially designed cap does not open, unless it is rightly paired with another identical cap. So, to open your bottle and take that deserving sip, you must interact with other coke drinkers. The experience is shared on social media. Now this twist could have happened with any bottle with a screwed cap. A brilliant example of experiential consumer marketing that most likely would have been laughed at and shot down in many brand ideation sessions.



2ND LIVES CAPS. Everyone laughs at this somewhat silly solution toward reducing the environmental challenge. However, Coke took this consumer inclusive idea forward. It asked the consumer to lend a helping hand in delaying the bottle journey to the landfill. Give the bottle a new 2nd life.

In Vietnam, 40,000 caps were distributed free. These 16 special red screw-on-caps gave the used bottle a fresh utility. They converted it into the spray-bottle, Baby-rattle, dumbbell squirt gun, lamp, paintbrush, sharpener, etc. The campaign was rightly titled “What if empty Coke bottles were never thrown away?”


PLANT BOTTLE. In 2009, Coke introduced the Plant Bottle. 100% recycleable. And it aims that by 2020 it will start making all its pet bottles with plant derivatives; simple crazy innovative thinking. It is touted to be the first-ever fully recyclable PET plastic beverage bottle made partially from plants, but has a lighter footprint on the planet and its limited dwindling resources. Being committed to the thought, coke has been sharing the technology with non-competing companies and products.



PUSH THE THOUGHT. The 100th anniversary of the famed bottle was celebrated in 2015. Every brand looks forward to maximising such opportunities. Coke went a step further. The Coca-Cola Bottle: An American Icon at 100, an exhibit at the High Museum in Atlanta is an example of such leveraging.



IDEA EXPANSION. Coke seems to be entirely a source neutral company for ideation, as far as time, process and ownership are concerned. As the story goes, Cannes Lion ad from Germany took birth as an idea with the Tom Farrell, global design director brushing his teeth and using his finger to trace on his bathroom mirror.

It may be post-rationalisation, but as per Coke: “The connecting of hands from different people various socio-economic levels, races, religions and nationalities is a reflection inclusion and optimism, core brand values – all connected by Coca-Cola”. The simple, authentic and a somewhat unique idea grabbed attention is referred as the film titled “TOGETHER”



JOURNEYXJOURNEY, OPPORTUNITY WITH CONSUMERS. Coke mobile publishing storytelling mission ‘JourneyXJourney’ is a three-week 20-plus stop 40-ft motor home with capabilities to create, and curate consumer generated content that should lead to high reader engagement.

Since 2012 it has become a global platform social media channels with more than 3 million followers combined. The Coca-Cola Journey is one of the initial innovators in the area of brand content publishing and amplification.
Doug Busk, global group director, social media and digital communications at coke reflect; JXJ allows us to get into the real world where the best stories – and the people and communities behind them – live. The stories aren’t coming to us… we’re going to the stories.


ASAP: ‘Affordable Small Sparkling Package’, the 250 ml bottle addressing the issue of affordability and availability is driving growth in India. This bottle was designed with an aim to minimise gas loss. It took two years to develop. It not only maintains the original pleasing look but ensures that it remains fresh and the ‘biting taste’ is not lost due to loss of carbonation during transit.



SHARE A COKE. In the United States, when the campaign broke with Coca-Cola, Diet Coke or Coke Zero carrying names, people rushed to find their names. Off course, all names could not be accommodated. Many fans were dejected. However, in its next edition, more names were featured. A site allowed you to search if your name was on a coke bottle. Additionally, you could customise and order with your name from the e-commerce site. To top it all, ‘Share a Coke’ went across the nation on a 600 stop tour allowing customisation of mini cans. Taking it further, the new edition also had more generic names and occasions specific association like “Mom”, “Dad”, “Grad”, “Soulmate” “Hero” “Class of 2015,” “Team” and “Family”.


NO LABEL: On the one hand, you have customisation of the labels, and on the other hand, no label. In Middle East, Coke promoting is promoting the anti-prejudice, pro-tolerance message: “Labels are for cans, not people” during the holy month of Ramadan. Here, the limited-edition red cans had the white dynamic ribbon, but no logo. The brand believes that by urging everyone to remove stereotypes, happiness will be spread to a larger and wider community.



NO TWO SAME CANS. No two packs are exactly the same: just like those who enjoy Diet Coke. Working with HP Indigo digital printing technology and 36 base designs, coke experimented in Canada with Millions of unique and colorful Diet Coke package designs. It gives the consumer a choice and an opportunity to find the one Diet Coke bottle that truly reflects him/her ‘One of a Kind’.


SOLAR COOLER. Coca-Cola India developed “eKOCool” cooler, specifically for retailers in rural areas lacking regular electricity. The rooftop solar panels are linked to the chest-style coolers inside the shop, and as the sun goes up, the bottles start chilling. In addition, the “eKOCool” coolers are equipped with charging points fir lanterns and mobile phones, thus increasing traffic and allowing the shop to remain open after dark.



SPLASH BAR. It is the new hotspot in some Indian villages. Here, from a simple kiosk vendor dispenses ice cold Coca-Cola into small cups at an affordable price. The women in the rural area get employment opportunity, and the brand expands soft drink culture to untouched markets giving an affordable authentic experience. From a 31 Splash Bars start in 2013, now there are more than 30,000 such units. Additionally, it opens new avenues for future choices for the women. The earning can help feed family and provide education.


CHRISTMAS WRAPPING PAPER. So getting involved with the consumer. This time no catbonated drinks, But the paper to wrap the presents in. Not the best of innovation but yes true to its thought of open happiness.



CALL HOME. Experiment at Middle East: spreading that happiness, where the workers could use the coke caps as token for calling home! What those smile are worth. And how simple and relevant  the innovation is.



MUSIC FOR DEAF. This time the innovation was implemented in Pakistan after it was successfully tested at Bangkok. Coke studio helps hearing-impaired people to enjoy coke studio experience from a sofa embedded with tiny vibration engines and mood synchronised LED lights elevating the experience visibly. And the front screen displays the video. The ambience is completed with on-set guitars, keyboards and other musical instruments. Here is a connect by a deaf person who experienced it. “Whatever my body felt, whatever my brain thought, even though we can’t hear the music, we can feel it,”



Innovation is breaking down the elements. Rearranging. Reconfiguring and seeing things a bit differently.

Reiterating the thought that triggered it. InNoWait. ‘Do it because you want to, not because you think you must. And most important, do it right and go crazy. You will do such experiments, when you truly believe that the world today is a chaotic always in flux place. Here the past success is no guarantee for future success’.

Details and pictures from the Coca-Cola Company website


Sanjeev Kotnala with 28 years of corporate experience is the founder of Intradia World; a Brand, Marketing & Management Advisory. His focus area includes Ideation and Innovation; he also conducts specialised workshops like IDEAHarvest, Liberate and InNoWait. For soft skill training, he follows SHIFT (Specific High-Intensity Frequent training), a process of continuous training with frequent shorter sessions. Email tweet @s_kotnala web:



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