It's interesting to unpack the latest iteration of the Coca-Cola ‘Happiness’ campaign (execution appears to be initially out of Amsterdam) from an evidence-based marketing standpoint.
First up, over the last couple of years there's been something of an about turn as my point-of-view has shifted from a digital-centric view to one much more influenced by investigations into the science of advertising, and how that combines with things like behavioural economics and other social sciences.
One of the key influences in this has been getting to grips somewhat with some marketing science principles outlined by Dr Byron Sharp, professor of marketing science at the University of South Australia and director at Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for marketing science in his book How Brands Grow.
Dr Sharp debunks a lot of conventional marketing theory and proposes a framework for building brands based on what works in scientific practice.
In a nutshell How Brands Grow identifies that real challenge of marketing is principally about availability – mental availability and physical availability.
The splendid Coca-Cola activation appears to be an almost text-book example of this practice.
In the clip you see the Coca-Cola truck take-over a grey urban space by creating a pop-up park resplendent with trees, grass and a Coke vending machine. Passers-by are invited to kick off their shoes and receive a free Coke.
The activation seems to match HBG's seven rules for brand growth to the letter.
1. Continuously reach all buyers of the category – avoid being silent.
While always-on is a social media buzzword de jour, real always-on means being constantly being available. The Happiness campaign (of which this is an iteration) never stops, and hasn't stopped.
2. Ensure the brand is easy to buy (communicate how the brand fits with the users life).
This iteration is entitled ‘Where Will Happiness Strike Next?'. Coke brings you happiness. This is how it fits. It’s an emotional outcome, rather than a fabled emotional 'connection'.
3. Get noticed (grab attention and focus on brand salience to prime the users mind).
Case in point. And just feel your mirror neurons fizzing. This is actually a piece of real social media, a social object. A public intervention that lets people see each other so that they can copy each other.
4. Refresh and build memory structures (respect existing associations that make the brand easy to notice and easy to buy).
The physical cue of taking of shoes and stepping on the grass is a nice little bonus hedonic boost. And you get rewarded for doing something. Attitudes follow behaviour, remember.
5. Create and use distinctive brand assets (use sensory cues to get noticed and stay top of mind).
The coke bottle shaped grass, red everywhere amongst the grey. Happy smiling people using the product. Simple.
6. Be consistent (avoid unnecessary changes, whilst keeping the brand fresh and interesting).
One could argue that coherence rather than consistency is better description but again, the brand idea remains the same as it ever was, the creativity is in finding new exciting expressions of the core idea.
7. Keep the brand is easy to buy and avoid giving excuses not to buy eg by targeting a particular group or groups. Look at the people in the video. There’s no segmentation going on here. Happiness (ergo Coke) is for everyone. Even the multi-ligual intro indicates this.
So what if it's semi-staged. It's advertising.