Joe Tripodi has been the CMO at an insurance company and a bank. Some pretty straight-arrow industries. Now, as Coca-Cola’s chief marketer, he can sound like a guy wearing a hoodie and jeans even while meeting with investors. He’s a social media evangelist, looking for new ways to get people to tell others how delightful a chilled fizzy drink can be.
He wants to move away from the traditional media measuring stick of impressions to a marketing chain that goes from “expressions to conversations to transactions.”
Take a sip of the Kool-Aid -- Powerade? -- he’s drinking:
“It’s all about how you can create these communities of people who have common interests. And, then ultimately, it’s about how those people share those interests out.”
“It’s allowing the individual, the person, to really feel like they’re part of your brand in a unique way. It’s not just pushing messages out.”
“All our programs now? Social sits at the heart of it.”
Coke is prepping its massive “Move to the Beat” global campaign around the coming Summer Olympics. Marketing will include text messaging, other mobile gambits and attempts to generate viral videos. There’s already an opportunity to take the Coke Olympic anthem from award-winning producer Mark Ronson and personalize a beat using a Facebook app.
This is not 2036. Coke also will run plenty of TV spots. But, there’s no innovation in that medium, right?
Tripodi, who serves as CMO and Chief Commercial Officer, doesn’t think so. He’s hoping the ultimate impressions platform can spark those coveted expressions, perhaps turning TV into social media. (Some might say it’s always been social media.)
Looking to reach its teen target, Coke will produce a daily TV show, “Coca-Cola Presents: Beat TV,” throughout the Games. Looking to connect sports and pop culture -- teen passion points -- the show will include interviews with top athletes and celebrities, while featuring comedy and live music performances from global sensations.
Plans call for “Beat TV” to be broadcast in dozens of countries, including the U.S., though Coke is still finalizing distribution details. It will likely be streamed on the Web. But make no mistake, it is a TV show. British broadcaster ITV is a production partner. (It would be a surprise if one of the NBCUniversal networks doesn’t have a place for it stateside.)
“Beat TV” is an “opportunity for us to start to learn and build a muscle in content creation, which is a real new skill that’s required going forward,” Tripodi told investors this week at a Goldman Sachs event.
Coke’s broad Olympics effort is looking to “tap into the emotion of young people” at all junctures. And, the setting of this summer’s Games offers help. It’s not Sochi, Russia, site of the 2016 Winter Olympics.“A gift” is how Tripodi described it.
“London (is) an iconic city, a city leading so much of social change, leading so much in culture and what do young people think of when they think of London?” Tripodi said. “They think of music … so it was a unique opportunity to think about how could we combine sport and music?”
At the heart of Coke’s campaign is Ronson’s anthem, inspired by five Olympic athletes from different countries – including U.S. hurdler David Oliver. All will be in TV spots.
Coke has a ton invested in the Olympics and reaching young people won’t be easy, at least through TV. Tripodi said the average viewer in “developed countries” is 47. The Winter Olympics, with snowboarding and X Games-style competitions, actually skews younger.
Even with Tripodi's enthusiasm, anyone thinking Coke is set to swiftly move loads of its media spending into emerging platforms would be misguided. Legacy is one reason TV will remain a heavy part of the mix -- maybe still in 2036.
Coke’s spending worldwide in the digital and social spaces is still only about 20%. “We can’t throw everything out that we’ve done before … because you’ve got a massive base business to protect and so that would be a foolhardy strategy,” Tripodi said.
(For all brands, Kantar Media data shows the Coca-Cola Co. spent $228 million on TV in 2011, down 18% compared to the year before, while Internet spending rose 48% to $28 million.)
As much as Tripodi wants to continue building a social media presence, there’s one major hurdle: measurement. All marketers are dealing with it. The Coke brand has 42 million Facebook likes (Pepsi has 8.2 million).
Understandably, Tripodi is thrilled – he joked Coke staffers should get special access to Facebook’s IPO – yet he wonders what the value is? Which leads to how much Coke should spend to “acquire or drive fandom in that social world."
An industry-accepted “standardized measurement, like obviously we have in the more traditional media industry, would be very helpful to everyone,” he said.
More broadly, the cola wars are heating up. Pepsi is moving ahead with the brand’s first global campaign. Like Coke, it's turning to music as a way to appeal to young people. A spot in the “Live For Now” effort featuring singer Nicki Minaj launched this week in the U.S.
But, unlike a few decades ago, Coke vs. Pepsi may help both – at least Tripodi suggested that since the business has been a bit “under siege.”
“If competitors invest more, that creates more interest in the category,” he said. “That’s a good thing.”
TV networks are drinking it in. Social media will play a role, but as Coke and Pepsi engage in a battle this summer to become the choice of a new generation, the beat of TV will still have lots of pop.