Marketing Planet

An "Unexpected Summer" with Coca Cola and high-tech cans

Coca Cola plays the role of 007

Coca Cola has found the latest way of being in the spotlights thanks to their latest advertisement campaign. As states USA-Today, it is more like a James Bond operation and seems to “associate technology more with military forces - or spies - than soft drinks†. Nothing the less, it is one of Coca Cola’s most impressive advertisement campaign and a revolution in the consumer industry.

What is this all about?

For their special USA summer campaign, Coca Cola has created a combination of pure technology and their classical cans. In fact, about 100 ordinary looking Coca Cola cans are equipped with special gps systems and SIM phone card. These cans will be sold in the regular packs of cans and when the consumer detects the special can, he can apply to the Unexpected Summer Search Team Headquarters who, if the consumer agrees to play the game, will activate the gps system. The Consumer will be traced up to three weeks (with precision up to 50 feet it seems) and be delivered its special price. The tracking can even be followed directly on the internet website of the Unexpected Summer Campaign

Coca Cola innovation

As said Steven Schiller, Group Director, Coca-Cola Brand Business Unit, Coca-Cola North America, "This is all about thinking innovatively and figuring out new ways to reward and connect directly with consumers. Everybody loves summer - with the promise of new and unexpected moments that we remember forever. So we’re kicking it up a notch by applying cutting-edge GPS technology to make those everyday summer moments extraordinary."

A very surprising way of tracking consumer though and, in ways of interest for Coca Cola, even probably very rewarding. This might seem the perfect way to detect the habits and preferences of their customers. Not always easy to detect the places in detail, this technology will create the possibility to really draw a map on a Coca Cola consumer.

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Coca Cola can, summer 2004
The special USA Coca Cola can with gps the hight tech object for their advertisement campaign.

Not surprising in a way that Coca Cola looks for this kind of technique. It combines in a way the «Innovative» image they wish to communicate but will also help to boost the sales of Coca Cola. According to a study carried out by Beverage Digest, Coca Cola sales went down in 2003 with 3%. With the increasing awareness of overweight and the risks, consumers may seem more likely to look for more «healthy drinks», which would represent a tremendous risk for Coca Cola.

Any privacy problems or reality-TV influence?

All this tracking down on consumers may seem a bit odd and contrary to the right of privacy. However, it is commonly known that privacy and tracking in the USA is far more liberalised than in the old and hesitating Europe. Coca Cola seems to have performed all the required measurements as the consumer will need to give his approval before the can and its gps system can be activated.

This type of tracking down also reflects what is since quite some years developing in the medias: reality television. We all seem interested to be followed 24 hours a day when being «locked up» in a house or farm with people we don’t necessarily know. People are desperate - as it seems - for notoriety and winning prices. Before, becoming famous was something only possible for the beautiful and the talented, but with reality television and now this tracking systems in real live, becoming famous is also possible for the common people. One of the best motivations for many people is to put them in the centre of the spotlights.

Unfortunately for the rest of the world, this campaign is yet only launched in the United States. Nevertheless, with their website campaign it will be possible for the eager to follow up on the lucky ones in real time. Simply connect to the Unexpected Summer Campaign the official commercial will soon also be available at the same internet address.

The Coca Cola message seem to be rather clear "You Can Win, But You Can’t Hide".

NB: an update on this campaign is available on Marketing Planet: Update on Coca Cola "Unexpected Summer Campaign 2004"
, date January 2005.