The Last Word: Taking the Consumer Engagement Plunge: Lessons From Two CPG Giants

Companies can no longer simply buy their way into consumer engagement. To be successful, companies need to pursue a mix of traditional advertising, branding, in-store experience and consumer-generated content. Today, it is the consumer who is controlling the dialogue and even the largest brands can at best hope to be “invited in” to the conversation.

This was the challenging global scenario presented by Wendy Clark, senior vice president of integrated marketing communications and capabilities for the The Coca-Cola Co., during the annual meeting of the Flavor and Extract Manufacturers’ Association in Hollywood, Florida, which addressed the theme of “A Market of One: Satisfying the Needs of the Individual Consumer.”

Clark noted that over the past 20 years consumers have repeatedly segmented into ever-smaller groups. Today, they are not only individualized, but networked in unprecedented ways. For example, there are 1.8 billion smartphones in the hands of consumers—more than there are televisions. In this media environment, information has become liquid, open-source, dynamic, collaborative and more. In other words, no one entity controls the story or message. And so Clark’s team has pursued a “liquid and linked” mindset in which all communication emanating from The Coca-Cola Co. must reach every communication end point (liquid) while maintaining a connection to core brand messaging. No easy feat.

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