Making a name for your brand: Lucie Austin on how Coca-Cola started a global conversation with consumers

Making a name for your brand: Lucie Austin on how Coca-Cola started a global conversation with consumers

By the end of 2011 more than half the population of Australia was on Facebook. With engagement in full summer swing, it was the perfect time to give Aussies something to share.

That something was the Share A Coke campaign, and it took off. The groundbreaking campaign saw more than 250 million ‘named’ bottles and cans fly off Australian shelves. Before it was done it had raced across the world into more than 70 markets, and it’s still going strong.

The brains behind the buzz? English-born and Aussie-national Lucie Austin, long time Coca-Cola marketing guru, with years of experience across different markets.

Lucie Austin is the marketing director of Coca-Cola South Pacific and the force behind the Share a Coke campaign.

Now in Australia as marketing director of Coca-Cola South Pacific, Lucie sat down with Coca-Cola Journey to talk global conversations and the impact of consumer choice.

Around the world

Born in the UK, Lucie first joined Coca-Cola South Pacific as the marketing director in 2008, and held the role until 2013. Her next stop was London, as marketing director for North-West Europe and the Nordics. In 2015, her business unit was merged with another and she became marketing director for Western Europe.

It’s been a whirlwind journey. In March 2018, Lucie returned to Australia, once again taking on the role of marketing director for Coca-Cola South Pacific.

So what are the biggest differences Lucie has found around the globe? Scale, mainly.

Lucie was responsible for 14 markets in Europe, so tailoring content to such a wide and diverse audience was a challenge. While some of the commercial and cultural factors are quite different, consumers across Europe have more in common than not.

“Consumers are more similar than different because I think there's innate human needs that go across markets,” Lucie said. “We find out what those connection points are. Trying to go in and make one size fits all with different customers and competitors is nigh impossible, but there are consumer themes and campaigns that you can apply across markets,” she said.

In returning to Sydney, Lucie is looking forward to a new challenge in a very different market dynamic.

“One of the joys of coming back to Sydney is it is smaller and nimbler with that entrepreneurial feel,” Lucie said. “It's inspiring for the team to think about the fact that we can not only reapply great work from around the world, but we can also create great work that can be exported. I see the import/export model of work a real win-win of working for Coca-Cola.”

“There's some fabulous things about being a nimble team versus the things you can do with scale in Europe. They are both good but quite different to experience,” Lucie said.

Share a Coke

Before the launch of the campaign, the team were getting feedback that consumers were more than ever wanting more of an eye to eye conversation with brands rather than a big talk down to from a big corporate.

The Share a Coke campaign was born out of a very simple brief. Lucie and the team wanted to invite consumers who had not had a Coke recently, to have an excuse to have one.

Intended as a ‘buzz’ campaign with social at the heart, it needed to have relevance for young adults, but still have a broad consumer footprint.

Lucie presented the brief as a pitch process amongst five agencies.

The Share a Coke campaign first launched in Australia in 2011.

The result was ‘Share a Coke’, which started as a project called ‘Names on Cans’ until it was shaped into something more meaningful for the brand. The genius of the campaign, Lucie said, was not just in the idea, but the ability of the team to execute such a complex campaign logistically.

“Nobody knew how on earth we were going get the names onto the cans because there was no such thing as digital printing at that scale back then,” Lucie said. “So for me when people say, ‘What was the genius of Share A Coke?’ It was the project team that then worked with sheer determination and collaboration to make it happen,” she said.

Lucie faced a range of challenges, including working in the legal space. They were taking the trademark off the front of a pack and replacing it with names - some of which were trademark names - so they had to be vigilant. Also letting consumers “play” with your trademark digitally was fraught with danger but with careful risk management it worked out to be a risk worth taking.

It paid off and the campaign appealed to a hugely broad demographic. Consumers were searching far and wide for their names in stores all over the country.

Marketing: Then and Now

From 2011 to now, one change worth noting, according to Lucie, is the greater range of consumer choices. “There's an abundance of choice,” Lucie said. “You just have to be more and more relevant within those choices and give consumers clear reasons to choose you over the competition. I think that's part of the challenge.”

Lucie spent 5 years as Marketing Director for Northwest Europe & Nordics and subsequently for Western Europe, based in London.

These days marketers need to be more integrated into the bigger commercial plans of a business. According to Lucie, there needs to be a collaboration between all of the functions of a business for marketing to operate at its best.

“Marketers are the integrators, or should be the integrators, of a business, especially a company like Coca-Cola where we don't own a sales team, we don't own manufacturing, we're basically a brand business,” Lucie said. “I think maybe what would surprise people outside of Coke is how much running between the functions there is for marketers to actually get their plans to market. It adds to the variety of our roles.”

Marketing the future of Coke

Looking to the future, Lucie said the challenges and opportunities she experienced with Share a Coke are still relevant and “in the menu of things we can do.”

The campaign itself has continued to evolve and morph in many different directions. It’s already reached more than 70 countries - Lucie believes Share A Coke has become an ownable asset for the brand that will continue to evolve. China for example has run the campaign for over 6 years in many different iterations, from names, to song lyrics and movie quotes.

“On the impact of the campaign, I think what it's done is it's raised the bar on what consumers expect from Coke,” Lucie said. “Internally and externally it's raised the bar, so for me it's just about always pushing for even more innovative marketing.” she said.

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