In 2011, the “Share a Coke” campaign was launched in Australia, eventually making its way to the US in 2014. The campaign removed the Coca Cola name from the iconic red cans and labels and replaced them with 250 of the most popular names among the Millennial-aged population (plus a few generic titles such as “Mom and Dad.”)
The company toured the country with kiosks to print customized cans, and in a relaunch the following year, the name base was expanded to 1000 names. In Australia, you were even able to text a number with a name and have your can “message” appear on a digital billboard.
Throughout all phases of the campaign, customers were encouraged to share their photos, tag their friends and use the #shareacoke hashtag on social media. Didn’t want to buy a coke or wanted to share one with your friends online? You could create a virtual Coke via the company’s website.
An interview on the official Coca Cola Company blog with the originators of the campaign explains how the campaign got its start and how it turned into a viral (both online and off) phenomenon.
Much as in how Coca Cola nurtured the relationship with the community and fans in existing Facebook Groups as illustrated in the HBS “Coca-Cola on Facebook” case study, the company upon their “Fans First” or “less about us, more about them” strategy.
The initial Australian launch was one of the first times they’d had digital at the heart of their strategy. Part of the success came through opinion leaders and influencers seeding the campaign online and getting them to “lead the conversation and encourage others to seek out “Share a Coke” for themselves.”
Celebrities were picking up the bottles and talking about them without any formal connection to us. Pretty much immediately, we knew we were on to something. Social media chatter and media coverage blew up. Google search rocketed. We always thought it would be big; we were just nervous about getting to market and getting it right.
According to a Wall Street Journal article from the summerof the US campaign launch, the “Share a Coke” campaign had spurred more online brand conversation than any other beverage company that year and that conversation was 95% positive or neutral.
The #shareacoke hashtag and campaign-specific Web site are smart content marketing plays, but the offline act of sharing Coke prompts many consumers to talk about the campaign through digital channels as well,” said Rick Miller, Networked Insights’ vice president of strategic insights.
Since it’s conception, the Share a Coke campaign has expanded to multiple countries , a campaign relaunch the following year, and a spin-off campaign in 2016 called “Share a Coke and a Song.” In fact, Selena Gomez’s photo associated with the “Share a Coke and a Song” campaign was the most liked Instagram photo of 2016.
While the viral nature of the campaign has long since died down, there is now an online “Share a Coke” store where the current feature is a selection with college logos in honor of the NCAA Basketball Tournament.
And of course, just to make you smile, here’s a collection of memes inspired by the campaign – illustrating the brand conversation between Coke and its customers.
Did you take part in the “Share a coke” phenomenon? Was a coke “shared” with you (virtual or the real thing)?
“Share a Coke: How the Groundbreaking Campaign Got Its Start ‘Down Under’”