In Joe Pulizzi’s recent book Epic Content Marketing he heralds Coca-Cola’s digital strategy as a great example of content marketing in action. Inspired by his ‘epic’ prose I thought I’d take a closer look.
Be warned, some of these insights will make you go ‘arghh!’ rather than Coca-Cola’s intended ‘ahhh.’
Global verses local
The first thing I noticed when I arrived at the UK domain is that this is very much a corporate website. The emphasis here is on dismissing any negative health concerns people might have about their products, focusing instead on the company’s charitable work in the community and environmental conservation.
I found this a bit confusing because, as a consumer, these are not the first things that spring to mind when I think of the brand.
As a marketing online brochure I think the website hits the right spot; it has a nice, clean layout and I can read the words fine. However, I find the language quite alienating – full of marketing copy and lacking real character. It’s not a place I want to hang out for long.
Furthermore, the homepage suffers from a carousel that moves way too fast (1 slide per 3.5 seconds). The only way I could enjoy that experience is if I over-dosed on caffeine.
The main question I find myself asking is this: where’s all that crazy, fun content that we’ve come to associate with Coca-Cola over the years?
No sir, there’s not one polar bear in sight. Odd.
Then I discovered this on one of their pages:
‘We’re committed to using our advertising to raise awareness of the importance of energy balance and helping people to make informed choices. We believe it is just one of the ways we can help make more people aware of the need for a balanced diet and active, healthy lifestyle.’
Ahhh. I get it now. This must be one of the key issues affecting Coca-Cola here in the UK, so the company is allowing each local market to address the key issues that affect them rather than hit them with one international narrative. Smart.
But there’s still a disconnect. I still want to see the polar bears.
Why is that?
Because I associate Coca-Cola with a pretty fun, inventive brand but I’m just not feeling that from this site. So I pop over to the US site to see what’s going on.
Oh dear. I’m even more confused. This is one of the most inventive, dynamic brands in the world and there’re forcing me to watch a moving carousel featuring random marketing campaigns. Some of them aren’t even in English.
But look! There’s a polar bear and he’s inviting me to click onto the red banner to ‘Explore the World of Ahh’.
So I click.
If ever I wanted a site that could represent digitally what drinking a coke feels like then it’s here. A random collection of online games and animations (my favourite is Mobius) – this was exactly what I was looking for.
And there’s the rub.
This awesome experience is so hidden (no reference on the UK site at all) or under-promoted (no reference to keywords like ‘games’ or ‘animations’ on the US homepage or across their social media) that it might as well not exist.
And that’s just one example of all the other mini-sites featured on the US homepage. As a user, I’m not given one reason why I should click on any of these campaigns. What do I get out of it? Why should I care?
There’s a term used in marketing called ‘hub and spoke’ which is all about using various ‘satellite’ digital platforms to push back to your main site. On ecommerce sites this is particularly important when you’re trying to encourage your audience down the conversion funnel.
A great content marketing strategy will introduce consistency across all these platforms. With Coca Cola, I don’t see any consistency at all.
What I see is a fragmented experience which doesn’t make me feel valued as a consumer. I see many marketing messages, many brands are promoted, but nothing to make me feel I want to come back each week.
Coca-Cola might be doing some amazing things elsewhere with their Content 2020 initiative, but they need to take another look at their core sites to make a significant number of basic usability improvements.
Some might argue that it’s all about resource and prioritisation – that traffic to brand homepages are always low; that it’s better to focus attention on social media campaigns and search-optimised pages (the side ‘doors’ of you website).
But I think taking care of all the ‘small’ details reinforces your brand as an authority in the the digital space. If user’s are having to second guess where they are heading on your site because the ‘information scent’ is poor, then this will just impact badly on brand perception.
I know the the user journey I took above was only one of many – but I felt it was a pretty critical one.
It just shows that it doesn’t matter if you are a small business or the biggest in the world – we all face the same challenges when we are trying to present a great user experience. Delight, and give your users what they want.
Less faff, more fizz please.
- Even though traffic to your main brand site may be low compared to your social media campaigns, you still need to take care of the basics. Be consistent.
- Don’t hide your best content .
- Don’t expect readers to know why they should click on a link. Make sure the information scent is strong.
- In the majority of cases homepage carousels are used by companies to communicate many marketing messages at the expense of what the reader really wants to see. It’s called ‘showing your underwear in public’. As a result engagement is usually poor.
Update: Since writing this post I have been helpfully directed to the Coca-Cola journey website which has a shed load of information on it. However, at the time of typing this update, I still can’t see this site linked to from any of Coca-Cola’s English language sites…
Have you any thoughts on the topic above? Please feel free to leave your comments below.