March 27, 2013

Coca-Cola: Fizzy Goes Fuzzy

Coca-Cola got all tangled up in its underwear last week.

At a marketing research whack-a-thon their senior manager for marketing strategy came out and said the unthinkable -- social media marketing is a big fat waste of time and money.

Well, he didn't actually use those words. What he said was...
"We didn't see any statistically significant relationship between our buzz and our short-term sales."
That's how senior marketing managers talk.

So, hang on a minute. You mean "tweets" and "likes" don't create sales? Get outta here!

Naturally, this got legions of social media maniacs and brain-dead CMOs all woozy and hyperventilating.

It didn't take long for Coke to start mitigating and weasel-wording. Pretty soon their Senior VP-Integrated Marketing Communications and Capabilities (how's that for a title?) started churning out a lot of flapdoodle about closed loops, content, beta tests, multi-screens, and journeys. Read her comments and you will see a perfect example of the 6th stage of The 6 Stages of Digital Delusion.
6. The Back-Pedaling Begins: "Well, it's just part of an integrated program..." say the former zealots...
Hey, you gotta defend your job, right? Especially when you're the number one brand on Facebook and it's buying you exactly nothing.

Now, far be it from me to defend social media marketing, but here at The Ad Contrarian global headquarters our watchword is fairness. So let's be fair to social media here.

First of all, the research that this hubbub is based on is a joke. In the advertising world research is like creative work. Some of it is terrific and some of it is worthless. I have no idea how this research was conducted or who did it, but based on the findings I have to conclude that it is not just worthless, it's actually harmful.

According to Ad Age, Coke's research drew the following conclusions:
  • Display was 90% as effective as TV
  • Search and outdoor were equally effective
  • Radio was more effective than search or outdoor
  • Social media's effect on sales was as close to invisible as you can get -- one one-hundredth of one percent.
  • Print was the most effective medium
You can get a glimpse of how rigorously scientific this study was from this -- these bozos can't even figure out if a social media comment is positive or negative.
"One problem Coca-Cola has is determining whether buzz is actually positive or negative in the first place. In one 2010 study where Coke pulled out more than 1,000 social-media messages randomly and had human raters compare them to automated sentiment analysis by one vendor, there were widespread differences."

" 'When we say it's positive, the machine about 21% of the time says it's negative' "
Machines? We now have machines doing research? Humans aren't dumb enough?

Second, the key to all this nonsense is one phrase -- "short-term sales." This research was only measuring short-term sales. If there is one company in the fucking world that should understand that you can't measure advertising effectiveness by short-term results it's Coca-Cola.

As I said in a post called Advertising Is Like Exercise last month...
Why do you think a can of Coca-Cola is worth 50¢ more than a can of Safeway cola? It's not because of the Coke ad you saw last night or last week. It's the ones you've seen for your entire life.
Not only is online advertising an enormously out-of-proportion distraction to most marketers and a black-hole for advertising dollars, it is also engendering a way of thinking about advertising that is ignorant and is harmful to the long-term health of brands.


Francis Kent said...

Well, that is Coca-Cola for you. While social media can create an impression on its audience, you have to admit that converting them to actual sales leads is pretty dicey. Maybe a more thorough (and sensible) research should have been done.

Jamie said...

Sad news from a hero brand. Coca-Cola should understand te importance of a two way conversation.

Dorothy said...

Rather like the CO2 bubbles in the cola, I think there may be a social media bubble about to lose its fizz...

Me said...

Saying that online advertising engenders a particular way of thinking about advertising is a bit of a misstep. There is nothing intrinsic to online advertising that says do this and see effects NOW. That kind of thinking may indeed be rampant amongst its many practitioners, but the thinking is the fault of the thinker, not that of the medium. Lots of people made the giant leap that if we can serve up the advertising in real-time, at lightning speed, etc., then we will see the results that way, too. And it's just that - a leap. So I'd suggest that the ignorance and harm to long-term health of brands are the so-called experts out there with short sight and fancy leaping shoes.

Anonymous said...

I like Pepsi. It tastes better to me. Stick that in your social media advertising and smoke it. It doesn't really matter what either one of these idiotic companies does as far as advertising. Taste is all that matters. (Which was a smart campaign idea used by Miller Lite, ironically.)

paulbenjou said...

Where's the salami? We have learned to slice our online targets so finely that there's nothing left between the bread.

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