Coca-Cola 21st Century Marketing Overseas Module
Jul 13, 2020

Wendy Wen, GMBA Class of 2017

 The Coca-Cola 21st Century Marketing overseas module is a primary component of a larger marketing program sponsored by Coca-Cola corporation for MBA students at Tsinghua SEM. Launched in 2016, the program is aimed at polishing Tsinghua MBA students’ strategic marketing thinking, planning, and execution through the case study of Coca-Cola, one of the world’s most valuable and respected brands in Packaged Mass Consumption Goods (PMCG).

Wendy Wen, GMBA Class of 2017

Supervised by Professor Lucy Liu of SEM, the one-week overseas module was composed of varied courses, site visits, and activities in Atlanta and New York City from June 27 to July 2. A total of 30 students from both the GMBA and part-time MBA programs were selected to join the module, and I was fortunate to be selected along with 29 of my schoolmates. A series of pre-departure activities were carefully arranged to prepare students for the trip, including lectures given by senior leaders in marketing and corporate affairs at Coca-Cola China, as well as an information-sharing class delivered by the Tsinghua MBA office. As a result, before we physically arrived in Atlanta, we had already been substantially engaged in the culture of Coca-Cola and were excited to explore more in the upcoming journey.

The first day in Atlanta began with an eye-opening tour at Coca-Cola global headquarters, where we were warmly welcomed by Coca-Cola’s global marketing team. The day was tightly scheduled with a series of lectures given by passionate Coke marketers, who shared with us the company’s experience and practices in branding, public relations, and product development. The most memorable impression to me was Coke’s unique strategy and efforts in cultural integration, which played an instrumental role in expanding its business across the globe. It’s not by chance that a great brand is hailed as “great”, there are indeed massive, highly orchestrated efforts invested behind the scenes. 

Program participants take in a company visit.

Prof. Timothy Halloran from Georgia Institute of Technology afforded us an unforgettable experience on the second day through his lecture about why the Coca-Cola Company has achieved unmatched success in developing and growing its brands with consumers. Divulging on the tactics Coca-Cola adopted, he shared five major factors: (1) developing passionate relationships with the right customers; (2) developing a laser-focused value proposition/brand proposition; (3) creating a memorable consumption experience; (4) staying sharply attuned to emerging trends and reacting accordingly; and (5) learning from mistakes. The presentation was highly engaging and substantive. Tim himself had spent ten years at Coca-Cola, leading multiple beverage brands. His successes at Coke include the national launch of Powerade sports drink and its sponsorship of the Olympics, co-development of Dasani bottled water, and the development of Coke's first Internet marketing initiative with his work on Cherry Coke.

The program reached a third peak when we stepped into the office of Ogilvy’s headquarters in New York.  Created in 1948, today Ogilvy & Mather is one of the world’s largest PR groups, renowned for its success in building strong and lasting brands, among which is Coca-Cola.  For the entire day, we were accompanied and skillfully directed by Ogilvy’s account managers for Coca-Cola, giving us a window into how a creative marketing campaign is built through the joint efforts of varied teams, including account, planning/strategy, creative, production, and media. The new marketing communication theme of Coca-Cola for 2016 — “Taste the Feeling” – was shared as an example to illustrate the entire process, which is full of challenges as well as excitement.  The culture of Ogilvy was very impressive; working in an industry filled with constant changes, Ogilvy’s team is obsessive, never content with the status quo, always trying to bring together the best services from across all of the team members’ different disciplines. Ogilvy aims to use creativity, originality, and thorough research to ignite sales and help build enduring brands.

Program participants sport their new Coca-Cola fashionwear.

There were numerous other interesting and inspiring aspects of the program, including visits to the World of Coca-Cola and the headquarters of CNN. It was indeed a great pleasure both to participate in the program and also to travel together with my Tsinghua faculty and fellow schoolmates. Now back in China, we’re currently preparing for the second phase of the program — visiting the Coca-Cola China office and plants, as well as working on our team research project. Phase Two looks to be just as intense as Phase One, but we hope it will also be just as rewarding! 

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