Engaging always-on consumers in real time requires brands to completely rethink how they create, curate and share content, Coke’s Wendy Clark said last week during keynote remarks at the 2014 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

In a seminar titled #AnyGivenTuesday, the president of sparkling and strategic marketing for Coca-Cola North America explained how two interconnected teams are executing Coke’s planned approach to real-time marketing -- for major sponsorships like the 2014 FIFA World Cup and on any given day.

The Hub, a network of 23 customer interaction centers around the world linked to an Atlanta-based hub, analyzes social conversations about Coca-Cola brands (including an average of 33 social mentions of Coca-Cola per minute in English only). The Hustle content development team operates like a newsroom to source, create and distribute shareable, real-time content around the world based on The Hub’s insights.

The Hub: Real Time
Marketers in Rio monitor social conversations around Coke's FIFA World Cup campaign.

Clark shared a handful of lessons Coke has learned on its real-time marketing journey:

1.       Silence is not an option. “In a socially networked world, you must engage in conversation around your brands or company,” Clark said, noting that consumers -- especially Millennials -- value brands that communicate openly and transparently. “If you’re silent, your truth will be filled in for you.”

2.       Speed trumps perfection. Clark stressed the need to produce authentic, contextually relevant “work that matters” and cautioned the audience of marketers to value quality over quantity. “The world doesn’t need more content,” she said. “The world needs more good content.”

3.       Co-creation is key. Noting that up to 85 percent of all social content about Coca-Cola is generated by fans, Clark said the brand is at its best when it collaborates with consumers to produce a “one plus one equals three” outcome. She cited the conversation-provoking “Share a Coke” campaign, which has rolled out in 50 countries worldwide and recently launched in the U.S.

4.       Culture matters. “You can’t operate effectively in our social reality with a hierarchical organization,” Clark said. Through new models and approaches to content creation such as The Hub and The Hustle, Coke is empowering marketers at all levels to drive real-time decision making. “And you’ve got to experiment and innovate out in the open,” she added. “For a 128-year-old company like Coke, that’s a great thing.”

5.       Learn more, guess less. Real-time marketing yields metrics immediately, enabling marketers to be “more precise and more predictive.” “When we’ve done something wrong, we know because our fans, friends and ‘hand-raisers’ let us know,” Clark explained.

'If you’re silent, your truth will be filled in for you,' Clark said.

Clark, who hosted a Twitter chat on @CocaColaCo following her session, shared several real-time marketing elements from “The World’s Cup,” Coke’s global campaign for the FIFA World Cup celebrating football’s inclusive spirit through more than 10,000 pieces of content published in 175 countries. On April 2, Coke introduced a series of inspirational films from the campaign on its first-ever global digital launch day, creating more impressions in a 40-hour period than the preceding 90 days combined.

Coke is sharing the “World’s Cup” creative reins with its consumers. For example, the brand invited one of its fans, Joel Robison, a special education teacher and photo hobbyist from Canada, to serve as the official “blogtographer” of the 90-country FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour and fuel The Hustle’s newsroom with shareable content. The Coca-Cola Happiness Flag, meanwhile, asked fans to send selfies hash-tagged with #HappinessFlag to be included in the world’s largest Photomosaic flag, which Coke unveiled on the pitch before the opening match in Sao Paulo. When the game began, all 220,000 people who submitted photos received a digital memento with the exact spot where they could spot themselves on the pitch, at that moment. “We wanted to get the world into that stadium,” Clark says. And during the month-long tournament, an eight-person “content squad” of young Brazilian football fans is documenting the action in the host country, working closely with Coke’s Rio-based Hub.

“When you really lean in, coordinate and fuel something of meaning and magnitude, and when you have great content, you can have a great outcome and impact,” Clark said.

And the Winners Are...

The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity is widely considered to be the world’s foremost celebration of creative excellence in brand communications. Since winning its first Cannes Lion in 1967, Coca-Cola has amassed more than 130 awards for work spanning multiple brands, creative disciplines and geographies. That total includes 14 awards won at the 2014 festival. Click through the slideshow above to learn more about the winning work created over the last year by Coke teams and agency partners around the world.