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Why Coca-Cola's No-Ad Stance in the Philippines is Genius Cause Marketing

  |  December 2, 2013   |  Comments

Coca-Cola's much touted move to suspend brand advertising in the Philippines in favor of local relief aid is proving to be a big brand win.

You may have seen it slowly spreading on your friends' Facebook walls: Coca-Cola is doing something really generous in the Philippines through its local units. The beverage company is suspending brand advertising in the country to direct the budget towards typhoon Haiyan relief aid.

Coca-Cola's Role in Typhoon Relief

Although it is not clear how much the actual brand advertising budget is and how much of it was dedicated to aid, Coca-Cola is praised by media (and on your friends' walls) for donating $2.5 million to help cope with the disaster.

There are two parts to their generosity; on top of the amount removed from advertising to help relief efforts, Coca-Cola has also donated $2.5 million in cash and kind. 

It is, indeed, laudable. However, looking beyond the emotional reaction (which is exactly what a great ad would do – just saying), the campaign is a great lesson in cause marketing.

Ad Campaign vs. Brand Advertising

First, Coca-Cola said they were suspending brand advertising in the Philippines. That does not mean ad campaign. 

"The assumption that they're saying "all advertising is suspended" is a very easy one to jump to… Brands of their magnitude most often have brand advertising and campaign advertising running concurrently. One of them is for groundswell of brand awareness whilst the other is specific to an offer or product," said Andrew Burnett, head of social at Yard Digital. “Given the production costs already invested, from a brand point of view, it would make little sense to stop a campaign, but stopping media spend on brand advertising is a more viable decision to take." Meaning, if they wanted to, Coca-Cola could run their Christmas ads while being truthful to their pledge. 

Brand Recall

Second, there are a ton of companies and brands involved in relief aid in the Philippines right now. To name a few: Ikea (through UNICEF, so two big brand names together), Deutsche Post DHL, and Toyota.

coca-cola-logoljThe question is: why is Coca-Cola getting all the attention? Because of the ad element. Suspending brand advertising is the key part of the message --- that's right, the message. This is what gets them so many media impressions. A quick Google search for “Coca-Cola Philippines Relief” yields 1.24 million results in under a second. Comparatively, a search for “Ikea Philippines relief” yields just 3,530 results (at time of publication).

It begs a second question, as well: Coca-Cola as a whole, including its foundation, are involved in a number of other charitable actions. Why are they not getting so much coverage?

The Secret Sauce – or Rather, Juice

So what are we seeing? It's a fantastic mix of favorable parameters at play, including:

  • market focus, by way of the Philippines
  • strong emotional appeal in the branding ad campaign suspension
  • a sense of purpose via disaster relief
  • fantastic media visibility
  • a substantial pick-up in the number of brand mentions since the news broke on November 18, as illustrated by this chart (see the free Social Bakers report here).


It's All Happening Offline

Apart from the massive media impressions, there is very little online activity around the news. It's hard to pinpoint the social engagement, but we ran a quick search on social media and as one would expect, the brand had little activity online. This is not a campaign that Coca-Cola would want to tout themselves; understandably, Coca-Cola has not posted anything on relief on its global Facebook page, and Coca-Cola Bottlers Philippines is not active.

The specific link to the Coca-Cola press release was only shared 1,025 times on Facebook, 12 times on Google+, 29 times on LinkedIn and 98 times on LinkedIn. Again, yes it is good news, because Coca-Cola should in any case not work on publicizing it themselves, it would be bad form. 

The Effects of Cause Marketing

So what's the story? For all it's worth, this is a stroke of genius on the part of Coca-Cola. This is cause marketing that does not bear its name but is a fantastic win-win for all parties involved.

But Danny Brown, co-author of Influence Marketing, points out, this is the tip of the iceberg for brands. Why? Cause marketing still largely debated, misunderstood, and even rejected in some countries. “Brands can't win. They step up to the plate and (whether it appears to someone's moral take or not) help where governments are static due to in-fighting. Does it help profits? Sure. But it helps the needy even more and, more often than not, raises awareness because of the extra amplification a global brand brings. That includes making consumers (who are also voters) question just what exactly the political parties are doing -- something that's remembered come voting season.”

That is food for thought.

Congratulations, Coca-Cola, this is pure genius from a brand and marketing perspective.


Liva Judic

Liva Judic joined Search Engine Watch and ClickZ in May 2010 as a news blogger. She has lived and worked across the globe in Madagascar, Switzerland, London, NYC, Asia and is now based in between New York and Berlin.

Her background is in government relations and financial media where she started out as a journalist at Bloomberg and became senior editor at AFX news (now part of ThomsonReuters). Prior to forming her own consultancy Judic was head of international PR for a head of state.

Judic focuses on facilitating brand and marketing transitioning for European startups moving to the US. She has been named one of the Top 50 Industry Influencers of 2014 by AGBeat 

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