The LAST thing Coca-Cola corporate marketing folks want to be caught doing is advertising directly to teens, especially given the recent “authentic” (see: bullshit on a stick) obesity campaign: “Drink Sugar ! No, wait, don’t ! Well, OK just don’t get yourself fat !”
To that end, Coke recently announced a genius move. Take three dominant themes in marketing – gamification, branded content, and sharable user-generated content – mix them together, and do an end-run around industry watchdogs. To wit:
“Coca-Cola has launched its first all-digital campaign, dubbed ‘The AHH Effect’ on smartphones and tablets (and also via Ahh.com – ed.: how was THAT url not taken?!?!)…
“…seeks to involve teens through digital content, ranging from videos and GIFs (such as one of cats playing with empty Coke boxes) that are consumed in seconds, to games that engage them for longer periods…
“…Most important, it will be recruiting teens, through social networks, to create their own ‘experiences’ – with winners to be given their own ‘AHH Effect’ digital destinations.”
Let us assess this mess.
You can count on one hand the brands that have had success with developing their own digital games, activity that people found engaging for more than two seconds. Yet, marketers are still being led to these roiling waters.
The obvious rationale is the insatiable appetite for games which, email aside, account for a majority of app time and smartphone time. But what marketers aren’t told (or don’t admit) is that the most popular games aren’t low-cost “branded” nonsense, but professionally developed entertainment.
We’d love to see a teen “taste test” between an “Ahh” game and anything on Xbox.
We’ve been to the "UGC" well a bunch of times (see this post, for example). Suffice to say there is nothing Coke can offer here that is going to up the consumer’s user-generated game, if you will, in terms of content that is (a) of high quality and, most importantly, (b) has f&ck all to do with the Coke brand.
Coca-Cola continues to drink from the “UGC = high-quality brand engagement” fountain (pun definitely intended).
What’s missing from most (OK, all) discussions of branded content (“Marketing Meme of The Year” for 2012 AND 2013) is the notion of timing. Branded content that reaches consumers anytime and every time is nothing more than a grossly overengineered expanse of billboards, stretching as far as the eye can see. Impressions, impressions, impressions, with complete lack of regard for when consumers are contemplating a brand’s product.
During the “Ahh” press conference, a company spokesperson said the aim was to position Coke as the “the ultimate in refreshment.”
User-generated branded gamification content (phew!, that’s a mouthful) seems to us an approach that will go opposite of Coke’s desired direction.