By Stephanie Tilton published February 15, 2012

Coca-Cola’s Content Strategy: 3 Lessons for B2B Marketers

If B2B marketers are looking for more reason to take up the content marketing torch, they should look no further than The Coca-Cola Company. As CMI’s Joe Pulizzi said last month, Coca-Cola is betting the farm on brand content marketing.

What’s fascinating about Coca-Cola’s foray into content marketing isn’t just that a beverage producer has recognized the value of using content to engage its audience. Coca-Cola has actually produced two videos (see videos below) that outline the reason for this new initiative and how it plans to execute its plan. And B2B marketers can learn three important lessons from this.

Lesson 1: Define a content strategy aligned with corporate objectives

Coca-Cola didn’t just jump on the content marketing bandwagon for the heck of it. First, it defined a strategic corporate goal of doubling the size of its business. Then it studied its target audience, the marketplace, and the latest marketing trends, and identified an opportunity in the mix.

Coca-Cola had seen three shifts in the marketplace and marketing:

  • Consumer behaviors are changing online
  • Companies can’t separate their messages from “technology” and social networks, such as Twitter
  • Companies can develop deeper emotional connections with audiences through storytelling

When all was said and done, Coca-Cola recognized that content marketing could help it grow business by provoking conversations about its brand in this new environment. The idea it came up with: Create stories that are so compelling, they take on a life of their own and fuel conversations and brand engagement.

Key take-away: Develop your content strategy based on corporate goals and research.

Lesson 2: Outline content goals with the audience in mind

Coca-Cola has zeroed in on the fact that storytelling has evolved from one-way to dynamic conversations in today’s hyper-connected world. With this in mind, it plans to create stories that add value and significance to people’s lives, and that get expressed through every possible connection.

To achieve this goal, Coca-Cola will develop multiple bits and types of content — all interrelated stories — and distribute them across numerous channels. But rather than create this content in a vacuum, Coca-Cola plans to develop content tied to the umbrella theme of “live positively,” which is top-of-mind for consumers. Coca-Cola refers to these two types of content as tent-pole and tent-peg content. In other words, the umbrella theme is the main support for the content strategy (tent-pole), while the interrelated stories (tent-peg) make it all come together to create a unified, coordinated brand experience.

Underpinning all of this is Coca-Cola’s own definition of content excellence: the creation of ideas through brand stories so contagious they can’t be controlled (i.e., they’re liquid) and innately relevant to business objectives, brand, and consumer interests (i.e., they’re linked).

Key take-away: Create a content strategy that is based on themes that matter to your audience — but that intersect with what you offer — and detail the goals at the highest and lowest levels.

Lesson 3: Develop a road map and plan

Coca-Cola has taken the time to outline how it will create content that helps it reach its goals. To take advantage of the wealth of data at its fingertips, the company aims to establish itself as a leader by sharing thought-provoking ideas. These ideas will be captured in strategic briefs, which serve as the launching pad for the creative briefs that will guide content development.

At the same time, Coca-Cola realizes it needs to be creative and adaptive in its approach to developing content — and that many people will need to be involved in the process. In addition to working with its agency and internal talent, it will turn to what it terms “industry collaborators.” While the various parties will call upon different processes to develop content, they’ll all be guided by the same principles:

  1. Inspire participation among the best
  2. Connect creative minds
  3. Share the results of efforts
  4. Continue development
  5. Measure success

Though some person(s) will govern the flow of all this content, Coca-Cola wants to encourage creativity and bravery. It knows that some ideas may fall flat, but only by taking risks can it come up with truly inspiring ideas and stories. In fact, it’s developed a formula for developing its “liquid content”:

  • 70 percent will be low-risk, bread-and-butter content that supports the overarching theme but can be developed fairly quickly
  • 20 percent will be an expansion of the bread-and-butter content that works
  • 10 percent will revolve around completely new ideas

At the same time, the company is well aware of the deluge of content, and will aim for ruthless editing so it doesn’t just add to all the noise out there. In other words, Coca-Cola recognizes that it needs to continually reimagine, not just replicate, its content.

Key take-away: Lay out a plan that specifies how you will execute your content marketing strategy.

B2B marketers who are embarking on a content marketing initiative should take advantage of this opportunity to learn from a global leader. Check out the videos below  covering Coca-Cola’s content strategy for inspiration. Then let us know what lessons you plan to apply.

Author: Stephanie Tilton

Stephanie Tilton is a content-marketing consultant who helps B2B companies craft content that engages prospects and customers, nurtures leads, and advances the buying cycle. You can follow her on Twitter @StephanieTilton or read more of her posts on Savvy B2B Marketing.

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