Coca-Cola Brand History and Marketing Strategy

Introduction

Developing a strong brand contributes significantly regarding an organization’s financial returns thereby becoming a priority in the marketing strategy of numerous firms. Successful brands lead to greater customer loyalty and reduced vulnerability to stiff competition, greater margins, and positive customer response concerning price increases or decreases. For these reason’s firms have continually developed strategies or initiatives that seek to strengthen their brand and maintain or alter based on the market trends.

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The Coca-Cola Company is reputed as a global front-runner in the beverage industry. Coca-Cola provides a broad range of brands that include soft drinks, sports drinks, and fruit drinks among other beverages that have penetrated various global markets thereby enhancing the company’s global competitiveness (“Coca-Cola: Brands” par. 1). Therefore, Coca-Cola’s branding elements, marketing programs, and leverage of secondary associations incorporates strategies that are accountable for its leading position in the beverage industry, In this regard, identifying the branding strategies that have contributed to the appealing performance of the company that spans over 129 years is crucial (“Coca-Cola: History” par. 1).

Thus, an overview of Coca Cola’s brand history, its current market conditions, and its marketing strategy would be the purpose of this paper. Further, this paper explores Coca Cola’s brand identity, value proposition, brand positioning, and unique selling proposition before integrating it in the illustration and explanation of the Customer-Based Brand Equity (CBBE) model.

The Coca-Cola Brand History

The Coca-Cola Company “traces its roots in the curiosity of Dr. John S. Pemberton, a pharmacist based in Atlanta who created a unique-tasting soft drink in 1886 that would be later be sold at soda fountains” (“Coca-Cola: History” par. 1). The founder developed flavored syrup that he proceeded to mix with carbonated water to produce an “excellent’ soft-drink. The distinctive taste created by the pharmacist laid the foundation for the Coca-Cola brand that boasts of its great image up to date (“Coca-Cola: History” par. 1). Additionally, since 1886, Coca-Cola has developed several brand extensions that have resulted in successful outcomes and not so successful results over the years.

Notably, the logo for Coca-Cola has been considered as an influential element of the company’s brand. Frank M. Robinson, a close partner who was also doubling as “Dr. Pemberton’s bookkeeper, suggested the name “Coca-Cola” to serve as the company’s unique trademark” (“Coca-Cola: History” par. 3). Robison considered the two Cs in “Coca-Cola” as strategic for advertising thereby prompting Dr. Pemberton to apply it as the product’s logo. The following images depict the initial and current logos that represent the Coca-Cola brand.

The original and current Coca-Cola logos.
Figure 1: The original and current Coca-Cola logos (“Coca-Cola: History” par. 4).

The similarity of the logos underscores the company’s consideration of the existence of permanent branding implying that tangible features of branding can also be constant. In this regard, the minor tweaks that Coca-Cola has incorporated to its logo over the decades purpose to ensure that the brand keeps on appealing to customers cutting across generations.

The figure below portrays the slight changes of the Coca-Cola bottle since its development.

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History of the Coca-Cola bottle.
Figure 2: History of the Coca-Cola bottle (“Coca-Cola: History” par. 3)

Since the development of the Coca-Cola brand in 1886, the company has maintained the shape of its bottle by requesting bottle manufacturers to submit bottle designs that are unique in a manner that they could be identified in the dark by feel or recognized on the ground lying broken. The Root Glass Company located in Terre Haute, Indiana patented the design of the Coca-Cola bottle through the efforts of Alexander Samuelson in 1915 (Isdell and Beasley 29). The Coca-Cola Company considered the contour bottle as the only packaging used for at least four decades before the introduction of the king-size package in 1955. The Patent Office in the US granted the contour bottle registration as a trademark in 1960 making it the most recognized bottle up to date globally (“Coca-Cola: History” par. 6).

The initial marketing strategies for Coca-Cola involved coupons that sought the promotion of free beverage samples starting from 1887. Later, the company executed its marketing strategies through newspaper advertising and distributing promotional goods that depicted the Coca-Cola script to various pharmacies. In the 1970’s the company integrated advertising techniques that sought to portray a brand linked with fun, friends, and memorable times.

The “‘I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke’ and the ‘Have a Coke and a Smile’ commercials created in 1971 and 1979 respectively significantly connected the brand with the experiences of its customers” (“Coca-Cola: History” par. 5). The unveiling of the “Open Happiness” campaign in 2009 aimed at encouraging the public to refresh with a coke as they continue enjoying life. Moreover, the “Share a Coke” initiative introduced recently seeks to foster sales of the brand as individuals enjoy the Coca-Cola refreshment.

While rival beverage companies focus or redesigning their brand aspects like color pellets and logos to maintain relevance in the industry, the Coca-Cola Company has underscored the essence of persistence, consistency, and restraint in its marketing strategies. The three essentials of brand development have steered the company towards profitability as customers develop positive perceptions regarding Coca-Cola products.

Coca Cola’s Market Conditions

Scope

Over the years of its operations, the Coca-Cola Company has experienced various changes in the external environment that have prompted the marketing department to initiate strategies that adapt to the environmental dynamics. In this respect, the marketing environment refers to the trading forces that a firm has no control of in a particular market in which it operates. The changing needs of its customers, their attitudes, and varying financial situations imply that the marketing team ought to implement strategies that safeguard the brand image in good and tough times. By underlining the essence of great marketing strategies in the volatile external environment owing to its global operations, Coca-Cola has developed a diverse and broad target market audience globally. Thus, due to its market scope that is situated globally, the company has partitioned its market into two – the consumers and the retailers.

The Coca-Cola brand has enabled the company to build a “carbonated empire” in the world that was widened its market scope resulting in global domination. The beverage industry player boasts of over 500 brands and products 15 of which are multi-billion brands. Coca Cola’s brands and products are currently marketed and sold in at least 200 countries in the world excluding Cuba, Burma, North Korea, and Sudan. Regarded as the largest beverage company, it employs at least 146,000 people worldwide (Isdell and Beasley 56). Importantly, the company is one of the most recognized brands globally since 94% of the world’s population knows at least one product of the company. Owing to the company’s scope of operations, it has secured its position as one of the most valuable brands in the world that projected at not less than $72 billion (“Coca-Cola: Brands” par. 1).

External market environment and Global Attributes

Coca Cola has to consider the external or macro-environment accounts for its exceptionally performing brand image. External environmental aspects ranging from the demographic, economic, natural, technological, political to cultural forces have a bearing on Coca Cola’s marketing strategies in the global market.

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Demographic Forces

Within Coca-Cola, an array of different demographic issues is crucial for their market segment. Currently, regulators have placed stipulations that seek to control the beverage industry with respect to the age of the consumers. Thus, Coca-Cola has to comply with the regulations that are against advertising its beverage products to children due to the implications of the sugar content on children’s health. In this regard, Coca-Cola has opted not to advertise its products to children since such adverts are considered morally wrong and unorthodox in the contemporary world that is conscious on the issue regarding health (Isdell and Beasley 87).

Economic Forces

Since the company operates in various economies, fluctuations such as inflation affect its operations. Thus, Coca-Cola has unceasingly faced the issue of uncontrollably adjusting its pricing upwards to cope with such economic situations (Dhar et al. 908). In such occurrences, the company risks the possibility of losing its market share since some of the customers consider the hiked prices as unfavorable since some of the brands and products are not necessities to them (“Coca-Cola: Brands” par. 1). For instance, a 2-litre bottle of Coca-Cola a decade ago was priced at £1, but it has double to £2 in the European market currently. For this reason, the economic conditions have prompted the company to reduce its pricing to maintain clients resulting in reduced profit margins (Dhar et al. 910).

Natural Forces

Currently, the issue of environmental sustainability has been underscored thereby requiring firms to uphold the relevance of conserving the environment in the course of their operations. In this concern, Coca-Cola has responded to the issue by incorporating packaging materials that are environmentally friendly. Further, the company seeks to use alternative packaging processes like the use of fossil fuels in the manufacture of their plastic bottles by adopting the “PlantBottle” initiative that observes eco-friendliness. They purpose to attain the goal of creating a totally petroleum-free bottle by 2020 (Ries and Trout 74).

Technological Forces

Through technological advancements, Coca-Cola has entered new markets. Through their partnership with Spotify, Coca-Cola has enhanced its marketing strategies by enabling its customers to connect and share with others who love a similar type of music thus enjoy the experiences mutually as they pause with the Coca-Cola beverages. Notably, Coca-Cola has incorporated music in its marketing strategy, and it seeks to use it continually as a technological aspect that would bolster its marketing strategy (Ries and Trout 98). For this reason, the partnership with Spotify sought to enhance the digital on demand service by improving its accessibility to more people globally.

Political Forces

The political factors that Coca-Cola ought to consider include those that various rules and regulation to ensure they operate legally in the different countries. Since Coca-Cola sternly promote its brand by offering non-alcoholic beverages, government agencies monitor closely its products to ensure they offer the right products to the citizens. The monitoring by over 200 governments and health agencies requires it to abide by all the laws laid down in such countries (Ries and Trout 132).

Cultural Factors

The rapid growth of the globe’s population has widened the market for companies like Coca-Cola. Thus, the growth of different cultures provides an opportunity for the company to join the growth thereby improve its market share. As such, the increasing demand from the rapidly growing population implies that the company would benefit financially. Moreover, a culture of healthy living is trending currently thereby requires Coca-Cola to consider aspects like the sugar proportion of its products in a manner that it would curtail the growth of public health issues like obesity.

Due to the excellent branding, customers have developed a positive attitude towards Coca Cola’s products. Thus, population categories like the youth have incorporated Coca-Cola products in their lifestyle since they associate it with a sense of self-expression.

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Marketing Strategy

To bolster the sales of a company’s products and services, the marketing department ought to devise successful plans. The plan incorporates a mission that seeks the realization of specific goals that would render the marketing strategy successful. It should be acknowledged that the success of beverages in the soft-drink industry depends upon availability, visibility, range, and cooling.

The four major principles that guide Coca Cola’s marketing strategy incorporate choice, honesty, balance, and non-marketing to children. Through choice, they provide a wide array of beverages that enhance the customer’s ability to make informed decisions regarding health living. At Coca-Cola, the honesty principle implies the observation of transparency in its sales and marketing endeavors. Encouraging moderation and sensible consumption of its products ensure balance. Moreover, the soft-drinks giant does not endeavor in the marketing of its products to minors below the age of 12.

Marketing Mission

Importantly, the marketing strategy seeks to attain the company’s mission that is broken down into three aspects. Firstly, “refreshing the world, secondly, creating inspiring moments that lead to optimism and happiness, and thirdly creating value that would make a difference” (Anders 24). In realizing the mission, the company has emphasized on content excellence as a new marketing strategy over the traditional creative excellence strategy. In this regard, the mission underlines the essence of brand engagement as the matter and substance of their marketing strategy.

Goals and Objectives

The vision of the Coca-Cola Company breaks down the several goals that it purposes to accomplish successfully. The goals revolve around the people, portfolio, partners, planet, profit, and productivity. It strives to create a wonderful working environment for the people. Coca-Cola aims at providing the world with a portfolio that offers quality beverage brands that fulfill the multitude’s desires and needs (“Coca-Cola: Brands” par. 1).

They also seek to nurture a victorious network of suppliers and customers to develop mutual and lasting value. The planet aspect of its goals seeks to uphold corporate social responsibility by supporting the sustainability of communities. Further, Coca-Cola seeks to reward its shareholders with profits through the maximization of long-term opportunities. Moreover, attaining productivity through the highly effective, fast-moving, and lean organization is a crucial goal for the company.

The central objective of Coca-Cola Company pursues global recognition as a business that upholds responsibility, ethics, and the propulsion of sustainable growth regarding its current and future operations. The objectives form an essential aspect of the company’s marketing strategy with respect to decision-making (Anders 44).

The Segmentation, Targeting and Positioning (STP) Model, and 4Ps for the Coca-Cola Company

Through the STP approach, Coca-Cola focuses on the identification of the highly valuable market segments before proceeding to sell their products through careful targeting of products and marketing. Segmentation assists the brand in the definition of the suitable products for a particular customer group. Coca-Cola lacks a specific market segment that it targets, but it drives towards the adoption of a marketing strategy that unceasingly develops news products to suit its customer needs and preferences (Anders 41). Correspondingly, it integrates niche targeting and undifferentiated strategies to bolster sales in the competitive market. The Cola product has worldwide popularity and consumed by people of all ages whereas the diet Coke targets the health-conscious niche segment. Moreover, the company integrates the competitive positioning strategy to secure its leading spot in the non-alcoholic beverage industry (Isdell and Beasley 20)

The 4Ps

Analyzing the product, price, promotion, and place (4Ps) elements that have been incorporated in Coca Cola’s marketing mix would foster an understanding of its successful strategies over the years.

Product

Besides the commonly known Coke beverage, Coca-Cola provides hundreds of products that include Fanta, Sprite, Fruitopia, and more to satisfy the unique needs of the customers. Further, the 375 ml cans, 300ml, 500ml, 1.25litres, and 2litres bottles provide uniquely sized products of the Coca-Cola brand (Isdell and Beasley 120).

Price

The Coca-Cal products have prices that vary according to the type and size of preferred beverages. The reasonable and low prices make it possible for customers to buy readily the products that are usually on high demand (Isdell and Beasley 122).

Place

Coca-Cola products are easily accessible in stores, gas stations, restaurants, and vending machines besides other outlets. Since it’s a leading beverage industry player, Coca-Cola markets its products globally by enhancing the accessibility aspect through convenience (Isdell and Beasley 124).

Promotion

As a marketing strategy, Coca-Cola uses various approaches to enhance the sale of its products. For the sake of retaining and gaining more customers, it incorporates the television, radio, the Internet, billboard, and advertisements to enhance its promotional endeavors (Anders 74). For instance, winning caps have promoted the Coca-Cola brand by attracting more customers.

Consumer awareness, knowledge, and brand identification

Enhancing the awareness of the Coca-Cola brand is crucial for its competitiveness. In this regard, Coca-Cola has focused on promotional endeavors that seek to raise the awareness of the product globally. As such, marketing strategies like advertising have successfully enhanced the awareness of the brand, as 94% of the world’s population is familiar with the Coca-Cola brand. Further, the public has been provided with information regarding the Coca-Cola brand as channels such as television, the Internet, and radio have conveyed useful information regarding its various products. Additionally, the possibility of an individual identifying the Coca-Cola brand even if the bottle was laid broken on the ground is high owing to the unique shape of its bottle. Thus, the essence of delving into the brand identity, brand positioning, and unique selling position would enhance an understanding of the consumer awareness, knowledge and brand identification aspects of the Coca-Cola brand (Ries and Trout 239).

Brand Identity

The brand identity functions as the audio-visual “appearance” of the brand thereby suggesting to the customers that they are at the right place. The brand equity that Coca-Cola has attained has accounted for its consideration as one of the most valuable global companies. Through effective marketing strategies, the company has improved the brand identity by incorporating it into the modern culture (Isdell and Beasley 210). In this sense, the current young generation identifies the Coca-Cola products with a sense of coolness and self-expression as illustrated earlier. Further, the authentic Coca-Cola product has built its brand identity across generations through differentiated elements and consistent values.

Brand Positioning

Brand positioning focuses on the brand’s location with respect to its competitors in the same space of operation (Ries and Trout 77). Thus, the key aspects of brand positioning that Coca-Cola looks into include brand attributes, consumer perceptions, customer expectations, competitor attributes, and price. Importantly, Coca-Cola has positioned its brand safely by providing an assortment of products that satisfy the diverse and unique needs of its customers. For instance, the Coke Zero product focuses on the dieting aspect of its consumers thus positioning the Coca-Cola brand as a health-conscious one.

Value Positioning

Value positioning purposes to guarantee the customers the delivery and experience of value through the products and services offered by a particular organization. To promote its value positioning, Coca-Cola has unveiled several campaigns like the “Share a Coke” and “Choose Happiness” pleas that seek to persuade customers to associate the brand with valuable experiences. In so doing, the player has positioned its brand at a place associated with value (Dhar et al. 923).

Unique Pricing Positioning

Coca-Cola has a unique pricing position that has given it a competitive edge over rivals like Pepsi. Notably, Coca-Cola priced its sugar-free and diet soft drinks similarly to the regular carbonated soft drinks. Likewise, the diet soft drink consumers can also enter promotions and competitions participated by the consumers of regular carbonated soft drinks. Moreover, although, at the choice of the retailers, reduced prices and unique offers are normally available for both the diet and regular versions of the Coca-Cola soft drinks (Dhar et al. 918).

The CBBE model

The development of strong bands holds great standing in any given company. Thus, creating a brand that induces positive emotions is essential for successful marketing strategies. In this regard, incorporating the customer-based brand equity (CBBE) model in a particular organization bolsters the brand building aspect of operations. The creation of a strong brand image using the CBBE model requires an organization to follow four crucial steps.

The initial step entails the establishment of a proper brand identity. The second phase involves the development of the proper brand meaning. Evoking positive and accessible brand responses act as the third step. The fourth step entails shaping of the brand relationships with customers. In this light, it would be essential to relate the four steps with Coca Cola’s situation for a better understanding of the CBBE model.

Brand Identity

The creation of a stable brand identity requires the development of brand salience. In this light, “brand salience entails the awareness building aspect of branding” (Dhar et al. 934). Coca-Cola has developed the salience element of that has resulted in the company to be considered as the most acknowledged brand in the world. Besides, Coca-Cola has improved its brand identity through different flavors of its products that satisfy the unique expectations of its customer base. Further, Coca Cola’s sense of community through various CSR initiatives has strengthened its salience aspect (Ries and Trout 84).

Brand Meaning

Besides the brand identity, the meaning attached to the image of the brand is crucial since different perceptions emanate among the customers. Thus, Coca-Cola ought to focus on brand associations that are associated with performance and imagery. In this case, the energizing, refreshing, healthy, sparing happiness, and fun portray the Coca Cola’s performance and imagery aspects that boost the brand meaning (Dhar et al. 928).

Brand Responses

The manner in which the customers respond to the brand unearths their feelings or thoughts regarding the company (Ries and Trout 40). Thus, Customers would judge the Coca-Cola brand with concern to brand aspects that include quality, credibility, superiority, and consideration whereas the feelings would emanate from warmth, excitement, fun, and socially appealing experiences.

Brand Relationships

The “final step comprises of the level of identification and ultimate relationship that the customer has established with the brand” (Ries and Trout 40). Here, the resonance aspect comes into play as it depicts the quality of the relationship between the brand and the customer with respect to the level of their ‘synchronization’. In this regard, the Coca-Cola Company has improved its customer relationships as depicted by customer loyalty, active customer involvement, and a sense of community.

Conclusion

The Coca-Cola Company provides an outstanding example of successful marketing strategy with concern to its branding aspect. With a rich branding history that spans over a century, the company has widened its scope of operations at the global scene. Through the STP and 4ps models, the firm has been able to pursue its marketing goals and objectives. Further, the company’s consideration of the CBBE model has been influential in bolstering the identity, meaning, responses, and relationships elements of its brand.

Works Cited

Anders, Julia. Coca-Cola’s Marketing Strategy: An Analysis of Price, Product and Communication, Norderstedt: Grin-Verlag, 2011. Print.

Coca-Cola: Brands 2016. Web.

Coca-Cola: History 2016. Web.

Dhar, Tirtha, Jean-Paul Chavas, Ronald Cotterill, and Brian Gould. “An Econometric Analysis of Brand‐Level Strategic Pricing between Coca‐Cola Company and PepsiCo.” Journal of Economics & Management Strategy 14.4 (2005): 905-931. Print.

Isdell, Neville, and David Beasley. Inside Coca-Cola: a CEO’s life story of building the world’s most popular brand, London: Macmillan, 2011. Print.

Ries, Al, and Jack Trout. Marketing Warfare, New York: McGraw-Hill, 2006. Print.

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