If you haven’t already seen the overview of Coca Cola’s Content 2020 Project on YouTube, stop reading this right now, and go spend the 18 minutes. If you’re at all interested in how content is going to reshape the strategic marketing process, this is quite simply, a manifesto.
The architect of the Content 2020 Project is Jonathan Mildenhall — the Coca-Cola Company’s Vice President of Global Advertising Strategy and Creative Excellence. That’s a mouthful of a title to be sure, but put quite simply, Jonathan is the chief storyteller for Coca-Cola, and Content 2020 is a bold move to create emotionally connected brand stories that are shared in a much more (ahem) fluid way. (See what I did there?)
When I first came across the Content 2020 Project, I was immediately struck by the business goal it presents at the very outset: “We intend to double the size of our business,” Jonathan says in the video. And, as he also points out, they plan to do this while realizing that, “Consumer-generated stories outnumber their stories on most of their brands.” So, what’s your goal for next year? Have you told your boss that you want to double the size of your business? Oh, and that you’re going to use brand storytelling as a primary driver to get there?
So, yeah, I became a fan right then.
Tracking down Mildenhall
As you might expect, I use the 2020 Project as an example in many of the talks and workshops that I give around the country (including those I present as a CMI consultant). And as I started using it, I realized I had a lot of questions about how one would actually create and execute a strategy like this.
I started doing some research about Jonathan, hoping to find a keynote or some presentation he’d given about the origins of the initiative. I then found a lecture that Jonathan had given some years ago to his alma mater, Manchester Metropolitan University. The lecture was on “creative excellence.” This too, is worth the hour and 20 minutes of your time.
In any event, at the end of that lecture, Jonathan invites the audience to connect with him on Twitter (incidentally, he mentioned that he’d love to connect with all of you as well).
Quick side note here: Do you ever have those moments where someone suggests something that should have been so blatantly obvious that you literally say “well duh” out loud? Yeah, that was me. It was as if the electrician working on your television looks at you and says: “Have you tried plugging it in?”
So I went to Twitter, followed him, and simply @Replied him.
He quickly replied (despite my typo), thanked me for the comment, and we were able to set up a time to talk.
I’m so grateful that he agreed to participate in an interview, and I learned even more about what Coca-Cola is doing with its content marketing strategy.
So, with no further ado, here is my interview with Jonathan. I hope you get as much out of it as I did:
(Author’s note: I was so glad to hear Jonathan talk about getting the entire team to participate in creating the manifesto. I’d invite you to see my talk from this year’s Content Marketing World [eBook available here] called, “Getting The Choir To Sing,” where I discuss this exact point.)
I also think we’re going to see a big move to “brand curation,” where brands can help to leverage each other; for example, our Super Bowl commercial where we had the polar bears commenting on other ads. This, again, is a real trend, but most large organizations will have to get over the nervousness of the legal challenges of this.
But that’s really our goal. We want to give the audience the most compelling content — and earn that disproportionate share of popular culture. That’s the power of content.
I think my favorite part of my conversation with Jonathan — and the point that I keep repeating when asked — is when he said that as he fills the emotional well of his audience, he has to trade on it less and less. We all strive for this, yes? You know, when Apple charges $320 for their iPad mini — and it’s more expensive than the other machines that do exactly the same thing — it’s because Apple has sufficiently filled our “emotional well.” In fact, they’ve done so to the point that we are willing to pay a premium for their product. This is truly the power of great, compelling, engaging, and emotional brand storytelling.
So, that’s our mandate in 2013. Go out and fill the emotional well of our customers.
For more inspiration for making your brand into a master storyteller, read “Managing Content Marketing, a CMI book by Robert Rose and Joe Pulizzi. And if you would like to get more helpful insight from Coca-Cola’s Jonathan Mildenhall, sign up to attend Content Marketing World 2013.