In a major break from traditional forms of marketing, Coca-Cola India’s summer campaign —for the first time —is not about huge outdoor hoardings or a blitzkrieg. The soft drinks giant has personalised the packaging of Coke through a co-creation exercise with consumers as part of the global ‘Share a Coke’ campaign. A can/bottle of Coke is at the centre of this campaign and it is the consumer who is actually doing the talking about the brand, not a celebrity. The trend, which is called micro segmentation and advocacy, comes across strongly with Coke bottles being embossed with 20 descriptors in 12 languages on relationships. Relationships (‘Dad: My Hero, My ATM’, ‘Mentor: Shapes Me, Sharpens Me’) topped the list in a research by Coca-Cola India for unveiling the co-creation campaign. Other parameters tested were names, dates and Bollywood numbers. Coca- Cola India director (colas) Ajay Bathija said, “Customisation creates a unique Coke that consumers can gift to someone they feel strongly about. It’s about connecting with a consumer one at a time and then touching a billion hearts.”

The shift in strategy according to Coca-Cola India director (media), Asha Sekhar, is a pointer to how marketing is undergoing a drastic change. “Five years ago, people would know it is summer time when Coke arrived with a new television commercial. This is the first time we have taken such a bold step. The product is on the table and the consumer is interacting with the brand. Consumers have started sharing it the moment they pick it up off the shelf.

Coke is enabling that interaction and bringing people together and that is an idea we believe is far more powerful than a television commercial.” Clearly, brands today are taking the ‘one-to-one’ route to tell a personalised story. Personalisation itself has evolved right from routine marketing, to brands building a mutually rewarding relationship with consumers. A Mondelez India spokesperson said, “It is easy to do one-to-one conversations when the scale is low. The challenge is really to scale this one-to-one conversation to touch a large audience. We call it Personalisation@Scale and this is a big priority for us going forward.” Recently, Cadbury Dairy Milk Silk’s ‘Pop your heart out’ activation enabled people to customise messages to their loved ones. Cadbury gifting too has been personalised with images and messages of consumers getting printed on the secondary packaging. On similar lines, Gits Food Products did a ‘#ThankYouBhaiya’ campaign for its gulab jamun packs during Raksha Bandhan.

The basis of the campaign was a digital-only video, which went viral with its organic shares, getting over 5 million views. It further amplified the campaign through contests for users to take a picture with their ‘Bhaiyas’—the unsung guardians. Gits Food Products director (sales & marketing) Sahil Gilani said, “This resulted in a strong emotional connect with Gits and touched several hearts of the lesser fortunate ‘bhaiyas.’” BCG Asia-Pacific senior partner and head (consumer & retail practice) Abheek Singhi said micro segmentation and advocacy has created an interesting dynamic- instead of having one big celebrity who does the talking, such promotions enrol hundreds of people to be their brand ambassador. The trend exists in financial services as well. Kotak’s My- Image debit card allows customers to choose from a gallery of images to make their card look unique. ICICI Bank also allows customers to personalise a debit card with a collection of over 200 designs, or a picture of their choice.

(The article has been republished with permission from Times of India, which first reported it on 31st March, 2018)