Coca-Cola's Hub Drives Real-Time

For Coca-Cola, real-time response to consumers isn't new. Every can has a 1-800 customer service number that connects you -- in real-time -- to a person on the other end with solutions.

“When you think to 2006, we were saying lots of the same things we are now,” said Douglas Busk, director of connections innovation at Coca-Cola, speaking at the Association of National Advertisers’ Real-Time Conference in New York on Wednesday. He said the company is still experimenting with the right ways to extend that kind of connection to digital. “We are all learning. We are transforming from mass marketers to direct marketers.” 

The company's size -- 1.8 billion servings per day -- is both an opportunity and a challenge: Coke's scope is global, but that requires a one-stop real-time resource for marketers in every market “We have to evolve the way we are connecting. We have to evolve the front lines of consumer care to be as active on digital [as with the 800 phone line].” 

Everyone's still benchmarking Oreo (the Mondelez unit should just quit the cookie business and become a media company), and Busk said Coca-Cola has studied its ROI. “We spent lots of time thinking about the Super Bowl, about how powerful it was in the moment. It served as a reminder of the power of real-time engagement.”

Another inspiration for Coca-Cola was the 2012 Obama campaign -- a poignant one, since Busk worked on the mobile portion of the President's 2008 campaign. “In 2012, they hired over 200 analytics professionals from Silicon Valley, New York and elsewhere. That's how sophisticated they were; they did that with resources they built up in a year and a half. Given our resources, what could we do if we leveraged all the data to drive experience?” 

Coca-Cola is approaching building out capability via its Hub Network, a go-to digital kiosk for expediting real-time activity in different markets. The point is letting a marketer in, say, Addis Ababa react right away to conversations instead of having to wait until Atlanta wakes up to get the information he or she needs. 

Said Busk: “The Hub is a nervous system connecting over 300 personnel on social around the planet -- whether they work on regulatory, legal, HR, or primarily front line marketers that manage and run digital conversations. "It empowers all of our functions. The ability of someone to upload knowledge. If someone in Rio sees a conversation erupt, she can get information to take action in the right time.” 

The Hub also empowers marketers to be able to discern conversations based on context, noted Busk, adding that the conversation should not be limited to the brand. “It should also be about the category: about healthy balanced living, beverages, sustainable living. That's what consumers are bringing up. We want to empower our front-line marketers to be able to engage in it.”

He said the company is also developing tools through in-house analytics platforms to create ways of letting marketers gauge the velocity of the growth of conversations impinging on the brand. “It will provide a sense of global movement of conversation,” he said, adding that since 70% of social content is still in English it can therefore start anywhere and end up everywhere in an instant. “We want to be able to get a sense of ‘tweet zero.’ What was the first moment? Who were the first influencers who drove this conversation into overdrive?”

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