Content and Engagement – these are Big Things in social media at the moment. But I have a theory that no-one, not even the really big, important, famous companies like Coca Cola and P&G has any clear idea what engagement and content actually look like in the world of social media. I suspect we are all talking a big game, but basically bluffing.
So, I was taking a wander around Coke yesterday to gather evidence and I chanced into this video of its’ content plan. OMG. I pressed the play button and for the next 7 minutes and 28 seconds sat there spellbound, dazed and not a little confused. This is either:
- a glimpse into the future of marketing that is so far out there that I struggled to comprehend its brilliance, or
- an example of a company so totally lost it is covering its confusion in steaming piles of marketing BS.
Or maybe a bit of both.
It talks about ‘liquid ideas’ (funny that for a drinks company) and a lot about stories. Full marks for that – I am always going on about the importance of stories and the shift from reductive to narrative marketing. But cop a load of this for how Coke defines ‘dynamic storytelling’ – it is “the development of incremental elements of a brand idea that get dispersed systematically across multiple channels of conversation for the purposes of creating a unified and coordinated brand experience.” Now that is class marketing BS. It also talks about the importance of data – no complaints there. As I have previously said, the enormous amounts of data individuals are now generating is probably the single most significant aspect of social media, from a marketing or social control perspective. Coke puts it thus: “Data will become the new (s)oil within which ideas will grow and Data Whisperers will become the new Messiahs“. Data Whisperers, Messiahs, wow, OMG etc.
Anyway – I was entranced. Also, you have to take your hat off to Coke and to Jonathan Mildenhall, Vice-President, Global Advertising Strategy and Creative Excellence, who provides the reassuring down-to-earth voice-over, for letting this dish out of the kitchen.
And then – I discovered there was a Part 2! Ten minutes and 18 seconds more! This time I made a coffee and got the biscuits out, but like many sequels, this was a bit of a let-down. No more data whisperers, it all got a bit operational, with the traditional exhortations to be brave and take risk with the music rousing to a climax as we end on representation of the Coke bottle.
Still, the whole thing was a fantastic insight into what could be right and also what could be terribly wrong in major brands’ approach to social media. I am not sure which is which at the moment, but I still stand by my belief that no-one really understands how engagement and content work in this new space and no matter how important content may be, a successful social media strategy has to be rooted in the creation of behaviours, not the creation of things. And if you are going to create content, this has to be content that answers consumers’ questions. It is not about providing a form of extended advertising albeit in a new channel (which is the sort of place we get to at the end of the second Coke video).
Anyway – I am going to have to look into this in more depth, and certainly use this as discussion material for future social media workshops.
Update: having tried this out in a few workshops, the central issue for me is Coke’s assertion that this is all about the shift from insight to provocation. Totally wrong. Provocation is not social. The only reason Coke feels it needs to provoke conversations is because people don’t want to talk to it. Or at least, the conversations they want to have with Coke are not the conversations Coke wants to be a part of. Coke wants to have a “look at me, aren’t I fantastic – now go tell someone else how fantastic I am” conversation. From a creative perspective, Coke (or any brand) has the challenge of putting itself centre stage – creating attention is what it is all about. In social media, there is no stage, there isn’t really even an audience and in-so-far as there is, this audience wants to talk to itself, not to brands. Hence the assumed need to provoke.