Text by Yun Ni Goh, GMBA Class of 2018; Jia Yi Leong, GMBA Class of 2018; Yong Zhang, PMBA Class of 2019; Zheng Gu, PMBA Class of 2019
The overseas module “21st Century Marketing” gave us invaluable insights into some of the marketing best practices through visits to Coca-Cola company and to the advertising agency, Fitzgerald and Co. (a.k.a Fitzco), in Atlanta. In addition, in-class discussions and lectures in Georgia Institute of Technology’s Scheller College of Business helped provide a comprehensive link between theory and application.
The trip started off with a series of sharing sessions at Coca-Cola’s headquarters, where we learnt about Coca-Cola’s branding strategy development process and their media buying and deployment model. The marketing “DNA of Coca-Cola” encompasses a perfect mix of science and art. On the one hand, they have systems like RED to help employees better understand consumers, they track returns on marketing investments and consumer sentiments, and purchase media based on a 70/20/10 model. On the other hand, they encourage creativity and innovative ideas that contribute to generating more awareness of Coca-Cola and their products. Furthermore, Coca-Cola emphasized the importance of “winning at the point of sale” in that there is a need to ensure operational effectiveness to prevent stocking out at hyper-marts or mom-and-pop stores around the world. It was estimated that resolving stock-outs would be a billion dollar business in itself. As such, Coca-Cola has close collaboration with distribution partners and customers to provide consumers with the best shopping experience.
The visit to Fitzco, one of Coca-Cola’s key creative agency partners, opened our eyes to how marketing campaigns evolved from being on paper to actual execution. The successful advertising campaigns were shaped by a strong understanding of the product and target audience needs. For example, in Coca-Cola’s “Share-a-Coke” campaign, many interactive ideas such as the special coke machine and personalized coke bottles took into account the positive emotional reaction that it would evoke with the audience.
On the second day, we visited the World of Coca-Cola, where we got up close and personal with the Coca-Cola polar bear, discovered the history and affiliations that Coca-Cola had with the Olympics and Fifa World Cup, and tried the many Coca-Cola beverages that were unique to each part of the world.
In addition to these visits, Professor Tim Halloran and Professor Ayse Ozturk conducted lectures for us at Georgia Tech’s Scheller College of Business. Professor Halloran kicked off with lectures revolving around the theme of customer segmentation and value creation. He emphasized that every touchpoint with the consumer communicates a message, and it is important for companies to deliver a consistent message throughout all channels. These were contextualized within different frameworks, such as the 5Cs and the brand pyramid, with interactive in-class activities to enhance our understanding.
While Professor Halloran’s class focused on an individual company’s marketing strategy, Professor Ozturk introduced us to international marketing management. Factors contributing to the success of marketing in emerging countries included respect for local cultures, building a targeted strategy through a combination of product, channel, advertising and price design, and positioning one’s brand through the rising digital trend. We were also introduced to another integrative component of global marketing management – corporate social responsibility.
The short five-day program had been a fulfilling and enriching experience for the class as we not only discovered the secrets to Coca-Cola’s marketing success and learnt new marketing tools, but also were able to create joint memories with new friends during the trip. Even though the Atlanta trip has ended, it is a new beginning for us all as we return with new knowledge and insights to apply in our work and share with our friends at Tsinghua.