On Monday, Coca-Cola announced that it would resume manufacturing and selling SURGE, and it immediately became one of social media's top trending topics. In case you've forgotten the late-nineties, SURGE was Coca-Cola's answer to Pepsi's Mountain Dew. Unfortunately, long-term sales weren't quite what Coke expected, and after five short years they stopped making the soda. A year later, savesurge.org went online, thus beginning the decade long campaign to bring back the soda. Social media proved an integral part of that mission and, after Coke's announcement, everyone who was involved in the fight was quick to pat themselves on the back. But Coca-Cola is acting very deliberately within the fanfare and congratulations, and businesses can learn a lesson or two from how Coke approached the social media based re-launch.
The biggest parts of this announcement are the platforms that Coke decided to promote and sell SURGE through. Inbound marketing is a major part of this campaign because everything is online, including distribution. They are actively marketing on Twitter, and using the built-in audience in the pre-existing Facebook page 'Surge Movement.' The only place to buy the soda is Amazon. And you can see the impact that this change in marketing has had on the product. The logo is close to the same one SURGE used in the nineties, and frankly it looks dated. But that doesn't matter because this soda doesn't have to stand out on the shelf and appeal to our modern sense of branding; in fact, they are banking on the nostalgia factor. eCommerce is chipping away at traditionally held notions of trade dress. The product or service, rather than the packaging, is put front and center. If you want people to search out your company, you need to build a lot of interest and trust in what you sell and, obviously, social media is a major part of that.
Coke revived an old product and aligned it with current market conditions. SURGE is being pushed as a cross between an energy drink and soda, and is being sold in 16 oz cans, much like other energy drinks. It also probably isn't a coincidence that Coke recently bought a stake in Monster Energy. Coke has survived so long because it embraces diversification, but when you don't have millions to sink in a crummy product launch, you can't just pursue every, single idea. Running a business is all about risk. And if you know how to leverage social media and online marketing, you can mitigate that risk. Whenever you start experimenting with new ideas, talk with your customers online and see what kind of a response you get. The internet has helped lower the overhead for these sorts of campaigns. If everybody told Coke that this was a stupid idea, it wouldn't take as much to pull the product from Amazon and cut the social accounts as it would've if they had a multi-million dollar national campaign and rollout.
The Petitioners Das youtube vs PR
Take a look at the Surge Movement's Facebook page - there are only around 143,000 fans. In the grand scheme of things, there weren't very many active supporters. But they do largely represent the millennial market; a group of consumers with both an impressive amount of buying power and a general disinterest in soda. Coke saw an opportunity to cheaply and effectively break into a market they've had trouble with. And they directly involved that market in the product's re-launch. While they had a traditional press release, they also used the admins of Surge Movement to announce the soda's return. It's well known that social media bridges the gap between customer and company. However, if you don't show how your customers are impacting your business, they'll stop interacting with you. Coke used the heads of this movement for the announcement, and really pushed how important their fans are to the business.
The Coca-Cola Company is a billion dollar corporation, and it never acts without tons of forethought. They've likely been planning this re-launch for a long time. But their campaign reveals a lot about how businesses should use online marketing. Don't just slap people over the head with your logo - involve them in your business, and give your customers a voice. Inbound marketing, eCommerce, and social media allow businesses to experiment and try out new ideas. Take a cue from a major company, and seize that new advantage.