Posted April 8, 2011 5:46 pm by with 2 comments

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“The days of controlling the message are absolutely over. At best you’ll be invited in and you’ll get to co-create and participate with consumers.”

Wendy Clark, senior VP-integrated marketing communications and capabilities at the Coca-Cola Co., gave a presentation at the AdAge Digital Conference where she talked about how social media has completely changed the game for marketers. Though she was using her own multi-billion dollar company as a reference point, much of what she said applies to marketers at every level, from individuals promoting their own talents to small businesses and on up.

She talked about how over the years we’ve gone from delivering one message to the world, to delivering targeted variations, to the current climate where we create conversations that work two ways. She calls this new landscape, “liquid and linked.” Liquid because every piece of marketing has to spread out to the very furthest communication point and linked because it all has to relate back to the core message.

The conversation consists of four parts, Paid, Owned, Earned and Shared. The diagram she used in her presentation showed each element as circles that intersected at the center point. Said Clark, “No one circle will take you there any longer. You can’t pay your way into greatness anymore.”


“Owned” media are all of the resources a company owns that can be used to promote their brand. In Coca-Cola’s case, it includes the cans you drink from. Millions of people see, buy and handle those cans on a daily basis, so why not use them to help communicate the brand message? She demonstrated with a slide showing Coke cans that featured summertime graphics. It’s a natural connection. Coke and the summer barbeque, Coke and the beach.

You may not have a fleet of trucks, vending machines or even product packaging, but what do you have that you can use to tell your story? If you mail any kind of a product to a customer are you making the most of the box? It could be a reusable box that would spread your message when your customer uses it to mail a package to a friend. It’s a small thing that can make a big difference.


Earned media is word of mouth and how people can be inspired to promote your brand. Clark did an experiment where she searched for the Coca-Cola tagline (using all of the major search engines so she wouldn’t get caught endorsing any one) and came up with 52 pages of results. She went to the final page and looked at one of the last items. It was a link to a blog post where the author had used a variety of Coke taglines in a commentary about the Islamic holiday of Ramadan. Now that’s advertising.

In another example, she showed a clever YouTube video where a young woman hears music every time she opens a bottle of Coca-cola. Clark laughed as she said, “the funny thing is, I had to get her permission to show her video in this presentation but she didn’t have to ask my permission to use the trademark of the world’s most powerful brand.”

Coca-cola isn’t complaining about the use of their trademark, they’re celebrating. According to Clark, there are 146 million pieces of Coca-Cola content on YouTube. Only 26 million were created by her company. The rest were created by consumers. “The days of controlling the message are absolutely over. At best you’ll be invited in and you’ll get to co-create and participate with consumers.” In the past, creating an impression was good enough, but now, she says, it’s expression over impression


Part of the shared media component is social listening. Clark tells a story about a man who randomly Tweeted that he wasn’t feeling well and needed a brandy to make him better. The folks at Coca-Cola’s VitaminWater branch Tweeted back that if the brandy doesn’t work, how about a free bottle of VitaminWater? The man said sure, he got the product and Coke got the “moneyshot.” A photo of the man drinking the product which he sent out to his whole network. Says Clark, Coca-Cola may have the largest group of followers on Facebook, but those followers all have networks that combined represent an even bigger potential audience. Those are the people you want to reach.

Forget the “Like” button. It’s all about the “Share.” “It’s the most critical thing. “Like” important, “Share,” more important. We have to create content that is shareable.”

The trickiest part of the share component is not overstepping. Says Clark,

“The minute we overstep in that community and try to push our message and not celebrate the message of the community our disconnects shoot up. You have to co-create and participate and honor the community.”

She admits you must curate your social media pages to some extent, removing porn and spam, but beyond that, she suggests letting the community lead you where you ought to go.

Social media has changed everything. “It’s real time, it’s 24-7, it’s constantly changing. it’s dramatic.”

To make the most of it, a marketer has to be all of those things, too. In the now, on all the time, constantly changing it up and dramaticly engaging. Do your social media efforts do all of that?

If you have a half hour, I suggest you watch the full presentation through LiveStream, (Thanks AdAge) it’s worth your time.

  • Very nice and informative article Cynthia. Social Media efforts need time and a little bit of patience to become successful. While some spend most of their time on Twitter and Facebook, some has automated the process of Social Media Marketing with the help of some tools. Do you think its effective? How much time should we really devote towards our Social Media efforts?

  • Wendy is spot-on when she says: co-create, participate, honor and share with the community by Social Messaging, connecting with consumers by leveraging the 3 A’s of mobile devices: Always on, Always Near, Always dear.

    She is also right when she cautions marketers not to overstep. To engage consumers on #TheThirdScreen, brands must earn their trust, which means respecting their privacy and their desire to control the experience.

    The final piece for mobile social success is to integrate the message with their real life activity–not to distract them by making them play games, go to a web blog pr wall post, or to check in.

    Delivering that message tied to their activity where they welcome the engagement is the key to mobile marketing: Social Messaging(TM).