The Power of Packaging ft. Coca Cola packaging

Today, we talk about the Power of Packaging, ft. Coca Cola Packaging. Before we start, let’s talk a little about the author. The author of this piece is Kunal Mehta, Kunal is a MICAn (Batch’04), and is currently the Global Marketing Communication Lead at DSM Nutritional Products, Switzerland.

He has worked with Britannia Industries and Nestlé India in the B2C space, and in his previous role before joining DSM in the B2B space, Kunal was the Global Innovation & Renovation Manager for KITKAT in Confectionery Strategic Business Unit at Nestlé Centre in Switzerland.

We’re really excited to host him for this piece. One last thing before we start and this is probably the Goldmine of this intro, Kunal writes some really interesting posts on a daily basis, if you love Marketing, you will love his thought. Be sure to check him out on LinkedIn! Now, let’s jump right in the piece!

The Silent Salesman

The packaging is often referred to as the Silent Salesman, and rightly so. In fact, packaging is also your Best Salesman as it has the power to reach every nook and corner, speak to every person in the language they understand and be present in front of the customer – before the transaction, during the transaction and even after the transaction.

So, packaging does the job of multiple salesmen!

With all that power, of course, Packaging is an extremely powerful piece of real estate, and marketers should be thinking of it as a channel and a platform that can even be bigger than any of their chosen media touchpoints.

There are a few brands, especially in the FMCG/CPG World who understood the power of packaging as a communication tool and leveraged it to the hilt. These are also the brands who have built strong visual properties and recognition for their packaging. Today I want to take one such brand – the iconic Coca Cola brand and show you how they have been leveraging the power of their packaging across different countries over the last few years to build a strong emotional connect with their consumers while staying true to their brand personality.

Let me walk you through their timeline of the past two decades and show you examples of what the brand has been doing to utilize the power of packaging across various dimensions – graphics, formats, colours, fonts, technology to build a stronger bond with their consumers.

1. Global – Olympic Sponsorship : 1928 and beyond

Coca Cola has been the longest-running, continuous sponsor of Olympics since 1928, and the brand has been launching special edition cans and bottles as part of their sponsorship to celebrate sports. Take a look:

2. Global – Share a Coke : 2014

Coca Cola’s ‘Share A Coke’ campaign with personalized names has been one of their most successful global campaigns ever. This campaign was first launched in 2014 in Australia but since then has been rolled out to more than 70 countries across the world. After all, who wouldn’t want to see their names on the packaging of an iconic brand like Coke? So, when the brand launched their bottles and cans with hundreds of different names, the consumers went crazy with joy and excitement!

Due to legal and trademark issues, these names could not be put up using the regular “Coca-Cola” Spencerian script, so a special font was created and it was called the ‘You’ font to dedicate it to the consumer.

The brand then continued adding layers to this campaign to give it scale and a local feel. There were three different extensions that happened across a lot of countries:

The localisation of names: Since different countries have different names for the people there, the local teams of various Coke markets took the idea and replaced the names with more local names to make the brand resonate with the consumers of that market.

The Power of Packaging ft. Coca Cola packaging
Coke bottles with Malaysian names

Local language: To take the campaign to the next level and to drive the penetration of the brand even further, the names were not only put in English but were also in the regional/local language and scripts. So a market like India saw names in Hindi, Bengali, Tamil, Kannada, etc. This took the brand even closer to the consumer.

Relationship instead of names: The next insight of this campaign was to realize that just having names on the bottles or cans still keeps it a bit cold and formal. If Coke truly wanted to build the ‘Share A Coke’ campaign, they had to bring in the concept of the relationship onto the packaging. So they launched the next set of bottles and cans that had relationship instead of names. Markets saw cans with the words Mom, Papa, Son, Sis, Boss, etc.

Related: Take a look at factors that go in deciding packaging: The 101 of packaging

3. Global – Give a Little Happiness : 2015

Coca Cola is known for its great campaigns around Christmas as well as its role in popularizing Santa Claus across the World with its warm advertising for many decades now.

To not limit its association only through advertising but also to bring more cheer to the dinner table across homes, Coca Cola launched special festive bottles with the label having a mechanism that allows people to peel it and turn it into a bow. This helps in having wonderful conversations around dinner and also turning a simple PET bottle into a gift!

4. USA – Ad Lyrics : 2016

Since the personalized names on cans had been rolled out across markets, Coke wanted to do something different, while building on the ‘Share A Coke’ campaign. So, in 2016, the brand rolled out a series of cans which featured lyrics of their own ads from the previous years to refresh memory and bring back those jingles in the minds of consumers along with the associated sentiments and emotions.

5. Turkey – Express Yourself: 2018

In the summer of 2018, Coca Cola introduced 70 million special cans in the market of Turkey that were printed with thermochromic ink. So there were cans having visuals of summer symbols – headphones, sun, sailboat, ice cubes, beach ball, etc. The beauty of this idea was that the cans looked quite plain when kept in ambient temperature but as soon as the cans were chilled all the different pieces of art came to life on the cans.

This was a great way to bring the fun element to the brand and also helped in having some wonderful conversations with friends.

The Power of Packaging ft. Coca Cola packaging
Source: thedieline
6. Korea – Express Yourself: 2018

To increase sales in the Korean market, Coca Cola tied up with Korean pop sensation band BTS (Bangtan Boys) and then launched a limited edition range that featured the faces and names of the BTS members. People bought these cans and bottles, not for the product but just to build the collection of their favourite brand.

The Power of Packaging ft. Coca Cola packaging
7. UK – Open to Better: 2021

At the start of 2021, Coca Cola has launched limited-edition Coca-Cola, Coca-Cola Zero Sugar and Diet Coke cans in the UK markets, these cans carried 25 different positive messages on them to inspire hope and optimism after a tough 2020 that everyone has faced. This launch is part of their ‘Open to Better’ campaign and it is a wonderful way to build a positive association of the brand before the purchase as well as during consumption.

Even though they give 25 different messages, they want to take this a notch higher and therefore, they also give an opportunity to consumers to visit their website and customize the cans with their own messages. Consumers can then send those personalized cans to their friends and family and spread positivity even further.

The Power of Packaging ft. Coca Cola packaging
Source: The Grocer
8. Latin America – Express Yourself: 2021

To build further on their ‘Share a Coke’ campaign in the Latin American markets, in 2021 Coke has launched a special edition of their cans and bottles with the letters of the alphabet that gives its consumers the opportunity to form their own messages and phrases and share with their friends or with others digitally.

This launch gives consumers in 40 markets of Latin America a chance to express themselves as well as their emotions in various ways, just the way they want.

Please note that in all of the above examples, the brand did not have to introduce new flavours or do any innovation or change to their recipe. It was the same Coca Cola that you always get and yet they were able to bring the newness and excitement through just the sheer power of packaging.

Related: Take a look at the story of Paper boat
Summarizing the Coca Cola Packaging

By just leveraging the packaging platform, Coca Cola has been able to achieve the following benefits:

  • Significant increase in sales during the campaign period
  • A way to move more consumers down the brand funnel towards loyalty
  • Increasing the emotional connection of the brand with consumers
  • A simple way to spread positivity and also give consumers the tools to spread positivity further, which is very much a part of the brand’s personality
  • Earned media through consumer posts and stories on social media as well as articles by various publications
  • Increase in traffic to their website by giving consumers the option to customize their cans
  • Become a part of the culture and always be seen as a cool brand, a buddy brand and a brand to hang out with

There are so many other examples of what Coca Cola has been able to do with their packaging over the years that if I start listing all of these, I would need few more thousand words to complete this article. Hence, I have chosen just a few different examples to make the point on how Coca Cola has been able to leverage its packaging for a different context, seasons, occasions by just playing with its packaging.

So if you are a marketer, do evaluate the potential of the packaging of your product and if you are a student or a fan of marketing, do pay attention to the packaging the next time you hit the supermarkets. I will soon write Part 2 of the Coca Cola story with more of their packaging stories, so stay tuned for that one!

The Author

The author of this piece is Kunal Mehta, if the piece adds value, head on to LinkedIn, and drop a thank you. You can also share the piece with your best friend on WhatsApp.

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