Group Director, Worldwide Interactive Marketing
The Coca-Cola Co.
Michael Donnelly’s role in Coca-Cola’s global interactive marketing group is to help increase the understanding, testing, adoption and use of digital marketing and emerging media among the company’s marketers. Here, he discusses his role in establishing best social media marketing practices for Coke’s marketers around the world, the challenge of determining social media’s ROI and the company’s biggest social media gambit yet—Expedition 206.
eMarketer: What is your view on paid ad programs on social networks? Do you recommend that Coke brands make social network ad buys with each online media program?
“It’s like fishing where the fish are. Social media is where our consumers are at the moment.”
Michael Donnelly: In general, we are very supportive of buying media within those realms. It’s like fishing where the fish are. Social media is where our consumers are at the moment. There’s no better way to amplify your message. If you’re building a major campaign and putting a lot of time and energy into enabling social and interactive aspects, you have to make sure people know about it.
That said, some of the platforms perform much better than others. In general, we’re very supportive of buying media on those spaces, but our brands have different needs at different times.
eMarketer: Do Coke brands regularly buy search and display ad programs on social media sites?
Mr. Donnelly: It’s difficult to simply say “regularly,” because the media is planned and bought by the individual brands and in individual markets. At a higher, strategic level, my job is to provide common solutions to the brands, but I do encourage them to incorporate search and display. We probably haven’t bought as much as you’d expect a company the size of Coca-Cola to have bought. But it’s for no other reason than we’re in the process of building out our platforms and the tools we need to amplify our programs.
eMarketer: What are the things you are focused on at year’s end and going into 2010?
Mr. Donnelly: For us, social media marketing is much more than social networking. It’s Flickr, YouTube and many more platforms. We want the campaigns in all our markets to come to life through all kinds of social media and online sharing.
eMarketer: Can you point to an example of a new global digital program?
Mr. Donnelly: Expedition 206 is a massive global program that has a presence on many social media marketing platforms. We used crowdsourcing to enable all of our consumers to vote on which team will travel the world for a year in search of what makes people happy. It’s a very big program that will be completely socially enabled. The team will blog, shoot video, conduct interviews and participate in events. [eMarketer Note: Voting concluded and the three-person team of “Happiness Ambassadors” was announced online on November 16. The trip begins in January 2010.]
eMarketer: Why did Coke turn to a crowdsourcing model for Expedition 206?
Mr. Donnelly: With Expedition 206, we will seek out what happiness means to people in different parts of the world. And the crowdsourcing approach is literally going to allow us to have the crowd—consumers in different markets—help us decide where our team of explorers will go and what they’ll do when they’re in these 206 markets.
eMarketer: What kind of consumer insights do you think Coca-Cola will get from Expedition 206?
Mr. Donnelly: We are looking to create compelling content and associate our brands with it. The content for Expedition 206 will be created from different places around the world. We realize our needs are going to change as this thing continues to roll out and we see what people are interested in consuming.
“Our strategy is to be everywhere our consumers are, but as a member of the community.”
Our strategy is to be everywhere our consumers are, but as a member of the community. That’s not to say that we think there’s anything wrong with big billboards in Times Square or Super Bowl commercials. There’s a time and a place for that. Within the social media marketing realm, our approach is to be a strong member of the community that’s enabling consumers to celebrate manifestations of the brand. That’s what this is geared to do.
eMarketer: Everyone talks about the challenge of measuring return on investment on social media applications and platforms. How big of a challenge is it?
Mr. Donnelly: There’s cost involved with everything we’re doing. We are definitely looking very closely at what is the ultimate value of a fan. We currently have nearly 3.8 million fans on Facebook. That’s global. We know the engagement levels and we’re literally watching every metric. We know how many photos and videos are uploaded every day, how many comments and “likes” we have. We’re watching what sparks changes in those dynamics.
I recently created a tag cloud from 750 random posts on Facebook. The word “love” is, at minimum, 300% larger than any other word within the tag cloud. So from a brand marketer’s perspective, it simply doesn’t get any better. That’s a privilege and it’s one we have to learn how to use and shape.
“They’re coming to us to show their loyalty and association—their affinity for our brand.”
It means that people come to us for very different things than they do other brands. They’re not coming to us to complain. They’re not coming to us for 50%-off coupons. They’re coming to us to show their loyalty and association—their affinity for our brand.
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Check out today’s other article, “US Online Ad Spend Turns the Corner.”