PHOENIX, ARIZ. – Staying relevant in a Millennial-driven marketplace requires creativity, risk-taking and constant reinvention, Coca-Cola Chief Marketing and Commercial Officer Joe Tripodi said earlier this month at the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) conference.

Joe Tripodi speaking

Joe Tripodi

Addressing a standing-room-only audience of more than 2,200 senior executives from Fortune 500 companies and advertising agencies, Tripodi explained why brands and marketers must constantly innovate and evolve to keep pace with the altruistic, entrepreneurial and tech-savvy generation of 18-to-30-year-olds.

He explored how Coke’s five-pronged approach to innovation is fueling its aggressive 2020 Vision to double its business this decade:

1.      Packaging: Customizable packaging with a strong link to mobile technology and social media is creating “shareworthy” content around the world. For example, a hit promotion in Australia enabled consumers to send their friends a Coke with their first name printed on the label (see picture above). Sales spiked during the “Share a Coke” campaign, which has been replicated in 30 additional countries. Other recent packaging innovations include a Coca-Cola bottle made entirely out of ice in Colombia and a shareable can in Singapore.

2.      Partnerships: Collaborations are driving Coke’s innovation agenda – from the Placelists social music app powered by Spotify, to the EKOCENTER “downtown in a box” kiosks, which will deliver clean drinking water and other essential services and resources to rural communities with the support of DEKA R&D and other partners.

3.      Products and Equipment: Coke introduced more than 500 new beverages in 2012 and continues to pack its pipeline with fresh offerings. Earlier this year, the mid-calorie, all-natural Coca-Cola Life launched in Argentina. On the equipment front, the next-generation Coca-Cola Freestyle dispenser and accompanying mobile app are reinventing the fountain experience and driving consumer co-creation and customization with the ability to pour more than 100 still and sparkling beverages.

4.      Consumer Provocations: Coca-Cola is moving from promoting happiness to provoking it, Tripodi explained, through content that puts fans at the heart of the narrative by empowering them create and share their own stories. “Technology allows us to innovate in participatory storytelling. We need to be bold and disruptive,” he added, citing the innovative Small World Machines film, which earlier this year encouraged Indians and Pakistanis to connect through interactive Coca-Cola vending machines.

5.      Cultural Leadership: Millennials expect companies like Coca-Cola to take a TAOS –Transparent, Authentic, Organic and Sustainable – approach to all communications. “It’s important for us, as a big brand, to lead culture and not just follow it,” Tripodi adds. “We believe we can be a voice that advocates for positive change and healthy progress.” That includes taking a leadership role in the obesity dialogue by offering low- and no-calorie beverages and transparent nutrition information, inspiring well-being, and encouraging people to get active by supporting physical activity programs.

Modern storytelling tools and data-driven applications enable brands like Coca-Cola to move away from the traditional “spray and pray” model into precision-targeted advertising. But marketers should not be seduced by technology alone, Tripodi warned.

“Without creativity or a strong story, you can’t make a strong connection,” he said. “Creativity drives innovation, which drives brand news. Brand news drives brand value and brand love. And, ultimately, brand love drives brand equity and shareowner value.”