Case Study Summary
In 1886, pharmacist John Pemberton created the syrup that later became Coca-Cola. Pemberton’s syrup was mixed with carbonated water and first sold in Jacob’s Pharmacy in Atlanta, Georgia. In 1888, the company was sold to Asa Candler who took the fountain drink from Georgia to some of the world’s largest markets at the time. In 1899, two lawyers from Chattanooga, Tennessee, secured the rights to take Coca-Cola from the fountain to the bottle from Candler for only one dollar. Two centuries later, the company has over 500 brands and is sold around the world. From a beginning of nine drinks sold a day, to the present with over 107 billion beverages sold per day, Coca-Cola has been and remains the number one global brand for beverages (Coca-Cola Heritage, n.d.).
As a part of Coca-Cola’s continued marketing efforts, the company began a consumer reward campaign. The “My Coke Rewards” campaign allows customers to register and take part in the rewards program by entering codes from fourteen different brands of Coca-Cola products. My Coke Rewards participants are eligible for special promotions and offers. Participants are able to enter their points at MyCokeRewards.com, My Coke Rewards Mobile or by text message via their cell phones, or the My Coke Rewards Facebook page. The points are then redeemable for sweepstakes, instant win games, supporting community causes, and donations to schools. The rewards program also offers the points plus pay option, where customers can use cash and points to make purchases from the My Coke Rewards merchandise catalog (My Coke Rewards – How it Works, n.d.)
Twitter is a social media network. Twitter provides real-time information that connects its users to stories, ideas, opinions and news about what they find interesting. Users are encouraged to have followers and subscribe or follow other individuals’ accounts or business accounts, such as Coca-Cola or My Coke Rewards, they find most interesting and follow the conversations in real-time. These conversations take place as short statements, pictures or links called Tweets. Users can see photos, videos and conversations directly in the Tweets to get the whole story at a glance, and all in one place (About Twitter, 2012).
The problem for Coca-Cola in this case study concerned the My Coke Rewards program. The problem began when a member of the social media monitoring team for Coca-Cola found a Tweet from an irritated customer. The customer was having a problem redeeming his My Coke Rewards points for his chosen prize. Since the customer had over 10,000 Twitter followers, Coca-Cola’s head of social media deemed this situation a problem (Fearn-Banks, 2011).
Coca-Cola has many strengths. The greatest of these are its global brand and loyal customers. In this case, the companies’ quick reaction to the issue was a strength. Also, having a social media presence with a monitoring team and Adam Brown as the head of it was also a strength. The team was a strength because it was doing its job and found the Twitter post (Fearn-Banks, 2011).
The difficulty with the My Coke Rewards redemption was a weakness during this case. This difficulty caused the problem (Fearn-Banks, 2011). Another weakness for the company is its presence on social media. Having a visible presence on social media opens the company up to public criticism that can be easily accessed and viewed by consumers. Without this presence, consumers would not be able to see complaints sent via mail or email.
The company had many opportunities. They were able to quickly address the issue and show consumers they cared. Not only did the company care about all their customers, they were willing to fix this one individual’s issue. This was an opportunity for Coca-Cola to be seen as a problem solver. This was also the opportunity to show the Twitter response to the Twitter poster’s 10,000 followers that the company cared and resolved the problem.
There were several threats for Coca-Cola. If the company’s My Coke Rewards program was seen as faulty, the company could lose customers and damage its reputation. There was the possibility of Twitter users retweeting negative comments. The Tweet could have gone viral and been posted on other social media networks. If news media had picked up on the story, the company could have also faced negative mainstream press about the My Coke Rewards program. There was even the possibility of litigation for fraud if the Rewards program did not actually work the way the company said it did.
Coca-Cola’s social media department was able to execute three successful strategies for the My Coke Rewards issue.
- The first strategy was for Adam Brown, the head of social media, to apologize on the irritated My Coke Rewards participant’s Twitter profile/timeline (Fearn-Banks, 2011).
- The second strategy was to post an offer of assistance on the irritated My Coke Rewards participant’s Twitter profile/timeline (Fearn-Banks, 2011).
- The third strategy was to help the individual attain the merchandise from the My Coke Rewards program (Fearn-Banks, 2011).
- Coca-Cola’s apology was seen on the timeline of the Twitter’s 10,000 followers (Fearn-Banks, 2011).
- The offer of assistance by the company was seen on the timeline of the Twitter’s 10,000 followers (Fearn-Banks, 2011).
- The irritated Twitter changed his Twitter avatar (image) to himself holding a Coca-Cola (Fearn-Banks, 2011).
- There was no extensive negative media coverage on the issue.
Coca-Cola has had many prodromes throughout its two centuries of existence. I would expect Coca-Cola to have a department set aside just to address social media. Serving over 200 counties, the company must monitor all media channels in order to remain the successful global company they are today. Coca-Cola had to apologize to the irritated consumer because they follow the Excellence Theory Model 4 – Two Way Symmetric Model of public relations. This means that the company maintains a dialogue with its customers. According to Fearn-Banks (2011) companies using this theory negotiate, compromise, bargain, listen and engage in a dialogue with their publics. They see and use social media for the mutual benefit of the customer and the company (p.22). This is evident in the monitoring of social media and the company’s apology. Coca-Cola also works to prevent crisis by having a people centered corporate culture (Fearn-Banks, 2011). Coca-Cola over the years has had an objective of building sales and gaining loyal customers. According to Fearn-Banks (2011), they should keep old customers; attract new ones, market new services and products (social media and My Coke Rewards); handle complaints quickly (Twitter case) educate consumers and organize outreach programs (My Coke Rewards) (p. 30-31). The company must grow with the trends to remain relevant.
About Twitter. (2012). Retrieved July 19, 2012, from Twitter: https://twitter.com/about
Coca-Cola Heritage. (n.d.). Retrieved July 19, 2012, from Coca-Cola Heritage Timeline:
Fearn-Banks, K. (2011). Crisis communication: A casebook approach (4th ed.). New
My Coke Rewards – How it Works. (n.d.). Retrieved July 19, 2012, from My Coke