A year ago, Coca-Cola made a big bet that storytelling is the cornerstone of 21st century communications. We believed that great, brand-created stories matter, that exceptional writing wins the day, and that building a digital newsroom would lead not only to a transformation in how we engage with our consumers but also how we work. Like a modern election campaign, we believed that the best content is social at the core, digital by design, and emotional.

An Editorial Scramble
That experiment started off in a surprising way. The stories our readers loved surprised us month after month, and the stories we thought they would love fell flat. It was the digital equivalent of a star candidate polling below expectations.

What followed was a veritable editorial scramble. Six months in, we took a two-week break and dug into the data.

Within weeks we launched food and music channels, a jobs filter for the home page, and made more than 60 tweaks to the site design. Coca-Cola Unbottled got a whole new look, resulting in a 106% increase in page views driven by a jaw-dropping 1,247% increase in Unbottled home page visits. We made dramatic changes to social integration, enhanced the right rail, and kicked off the new home page redesign we launched today.

We also realized that people like to smile. Stories that are bright, fun, and brilliant are hits. Readers voted for more Coke-focused stories than un-branded content. They gravitated to stories that focused on Coke’s rich heritage, innovation, careers, and our marketing programs. Virtually all of our coverage of Coca-Cola’s business is a winner.  Our readers turned out to be newshounds, travel buffs, photographers, cooking enthusiasts, technology early adopters, sports fans, and music lovers. They left us thousands of comments, and shared our stories tens of thousands of times. We are positively stunned that nearly two-thirds of them are under 34, and that millennials are our most engaged readers.

Content is King, and the Corporate Website is Dead
Like any winning campaign, we let the data guide us and inform our content decisions. Replacing a transactional corporate website with a digital magazine upended how we work. With KPIs focused on engagement, the new newsroom meant publishing content based on what readers want to read.

Today, fans tell the company when to communicate, not the other way around. We’re a communications team that’s as comfortable with data sets as editorial calendars, and we’re using a year of Coke Journey data to make our communications plans smarter.

Today’s anniversary and home page re-launch marks a final break with the corporate website. You read it here first: for consumers, the corporate website is dead and “press release PR” is on its way out.

Today, more than ever, we believe that content is king and that syndication is the role of social. All of our corporate social networks are growing at 100+% year-over-year, and we don’t expect you to go to Coca-Cola Journey every day. Rather, we want to make sure a Coke story is part of your daily habit – whether it’s on Google+, Facebook, or Flipboard.

Coca-Cola Journey's old design

Coca-Cola Journey's old design

Every Day, It’s Your Choice
Next year, we’ll focus on taking our fledgling media group global. Over the next 12 months, we plan to launch in more than 15 languages. I’m also pleased to announce the launch of The Opener, an exclusive, invite-only contributor network that will bring the best food, culture, and innovation writing to the pages of Coca-Cola Journey.

Let me be clear, we’re still learning and we’re not declaring victory.  This isn’t over.

Every day you have a choice of what to read and what to drink. Every day is election day, and our team will be here - working hard to get your vote.

Ashley Brown is Group Director of Digital Communications and Social Media at
The Coca-Cola Company.