Fairytale Marketing: Coke gives customers a happy ending

Marketing is about telling great stories. And this is the story of how Coca-Cola’s ingenuity touched the lives of Gen Y students. This is the story of how the world’s number one brand launched a global mission to spread the happiness of Coke.

As the Indian proverb goes, “Tell me a fact and I’ll learn. Tell me a truth and I’ll believe. But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever”. We human beings process information much more efficiently when it’s presented in the form of a story, and we’re therefore more likely to remember it.

Stories are also an incredibly important element in creating ideas that stick and thrive. Thus, storytelling should be embedded in the spirit of marketing because it helps consumers understand, recall, and retell a brand’s message.

Now, without further ado, here is one of the best modern examples of marketing storytelling in action:


The Goal

Coke is about enjoying life’s pleasures, creating connections between individuals, and pursuing happiness. The challenge was: how can this brand experience be brought to life? More specifically, how can Coke become a player in the age of new marketing and deepen their relationship with the alluring, social media worshipping, digitally geeky, tantrum throwing, information and opinion overloaded generation who lives online and, when wooed properly, becomes influential brand evangelists?

The answer: craft a story that engages millennials and spreads in today’s sharing economy.

The Plot

When you’re a multi-billion dollar corporation like Coca-Cola, you don’t just use marketing to sell – you entertain and create an experiential platform that earns the love of your customers.

So, Coke created the story of a magical vending machine that became a viral sensation. It cost them approximately $50,000 to set-up and the company left the machine in the cafeteria ofSt. John’sUniversity (New York) for two days.

On January 12, 2010, Coca-Cola uploaded the video to YouTube and announced it with a single, intriguing Facebook status update.

The video went viral. After 10 days, it had been seen 1 million times. Currently, it has over 4 million views. Coke also monitored the ad’s spread through blogs, focus groups, and re-posts and found that 95-98% of the comments were positive.

Coke’s Recipe for Storytelling Success

Structure. There is a chronological flow from beginning, middle, to end. The beginning captivates us and sets the scene. The cliff-hanger climax leaves us wondering.

Protagonist. The main character in this ad is the Gen Y customer because they take the journey from the boredom of routine student life to the happy ending Coke delivers.

Humor. People like to laugh and be amused. Funny is fun.

Authenticity. No actors, no special effects tricks. They didn’t fake it! This ad is about real people like you and me – and that makes this story very relatable and credible.

Unexpected.  Everything from the innovative transformation of a vending machine to the surprises it pops out is supremely creative and unique for each button presser. This is the delightfully employed, attention-grabbing theme of mystery.

Emotion.  “A brand that creates emotional joy is a rare thing,” says Pierre Chandon, a professor of marketing at INSEAD. Yet this is exactly what Coke does; it generates happiness. Every emotion from shock to excitement in the video is pure and engaging.

Social.  Happiness is contagious. As A.J. Brustein, a senior brand manager at Coke explains, “We wanted to keep the happiness flowing.” Indeed, the video shows students sharing the machine’s rewards. Moreover, this video spread like fire across social media networks because it’s a good story and good stories spark conversations.

What the Story Is All About

Storytelling helps us learn, remember, and retell. Stories are the currency of human contact and communication. When the marketer becomes a storyteller, they gain the power to inspire and mould behavior.

What are some other great examples of marketing storytelling in action?

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