Monday, July 10, 2006

Coke boldly goes where every other clueless control-hungry company has gone before

Well it seems that Coke pulled a fast one on us. After first saying that they didn't approve of the Mentos-Diet Coke experiments, they are now telling their community that it's ok to enjoy their product.

But there's a catch, and it's a biggie: While they don't approve of you playing with Mentos and Coke and posting videos on YouTube or pics on Flickr, they DO approve of you doing this on their NEW WEBSITE to hype 'The Coke Show'.

Thaaaaaaat's right! Seems that Coke loves the buzz from the Mentos-Coke deal after all, as long as they are CONTROLING how it occurs!


From Adweek(via Logic + Emotion):
“as of this week, visitors to can take part in "The Coke Show," monthly "challenges" testing their creativity.

In the first challenge, set to run through August, users are invited to submit short videos, but they're not limited to creating ads or odes to the brand. Instead, Coke is asking for 45-second video expressions of "the essence of you." Visitors will rate submissions, culling them down to 10, which will be judged by a group of professional filmmakers.

Of course, this 'The Coke Show' debuts just as Mentos is about to start their Mentos Geyser Video Contest. So look at how Mentos and Coke responded to this episode:

Mentos: Hey we LOVE this! You guys are giving us a TON of free publicity! Please keep it up! In fact, we are going to create a contest that will reward you with prizes for doing what you are doing anyway! Rock on!

Coke: Well honestly, we'd rather you DRINK our product, and stop playing with it, this IS after all a LIQUID, not a toy! But....if you must play with it, we'd rather you do it in a manner and form that we have some say over, so please confine your enjoyment of our product to our officially-endorsed website for 'The Coke Show'. There you will be able to play with your Coke as much as you like. But please.....don't try this at home.

That update for you sports fans is Mentos - 2, Coke - 0.

This is yet another instance of a big company that's scared to death of letting their customers run with their product in a manner which they didn't intend. Remember when NBC did the same thing with the SNL clip of Lazy Sunday that popped up on YouTube? The video was wildly popular, yet NBC ordered YouTube to pull it, saying they didn't want the video available as a download. Then what did they turn around and do? Stick it on THEIR website for download.

Wanna bet it's only a matter of time before Coke comes out with a competing product to Mentos? Wanna bet that they'd have no problem with you shooting THEIR product out of your nose, as long as the dollars went in their back pockets?

Again guys, when you have your communitiy actually excited about your product, you find ways to make it EASIER to spread their excitement, you don't try to re-route or control that buzz, because that's the quickest way to stop it dead. A big reason why buzz and excitement like this is created and grows, is because the company behind the products have NOTHING to do with it. Customers relish the lack of control that Mentos and Coke had over their actions, which is the main reason why this phenomenon occurred, because customers were using the products the way THEY wanted to, and NOT the way that Mentos and Coke wanted them to.

Mentos embraced the buzz, Coke at first tried to discourage it, and now is saying that they don't mind it, as long as they have some control over it.

Ain't the way this game is played folks. Someone needs to send a wake-up call to Atlanta.

Pic via Flickr user Undrin


Anonymous said...

This is the kind of thinking that is impossible to deal with as a communications person. It's what happens when a company has more lawyers than communicators, and no matter how many times these compromise projects fail, they always seem to keep coming back for more.

Tim Jackson said...

Excellent post and excellent comment Ryan; "more lawyers than communicators". Perfect!

It is a bit mindblowing. I'm always baffled by these ham-fisted reactions... that are just so wrong.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps a bit unfair to Coke. Unlike Mentos, Coke has a container that is subject to different pressures than normal -- and Coke has had experience with product liability with people that open the container and drink the product. Now you add in a way to make the stuff shoot all over.

So I guess I would have to ask Coke -- did the turnaround come after product engineers determined that dropping a mento in a closed bottle would not explode and injure anyone?

Or was this a knee-jerk reaction to the fear of a 'copyright' / trademark bogeyman?

J.D. said...

Mack, I've become convinced that the internet has completely caught Corporate America by surprise, and there are a lot of old fat-cat marketers that just can't compete in today's society.

Unfortunately, I think it's going to take a few high-priced funerals before businesses start adapting and adjusting.

It makes me curious, there no one in the board rooms that hears these things and thinks "holy crap, that's the most idiotic thing I've ever heard!" And if so, is there a reason they don't speak up???

By the way, I blogged about a similar issue with Atlantic Records, which allowed me to reference 100 CDs for 100 Bloggers yet again :)

Mack Collier said...

Unfortunately JD, you're exactly right. In many cases, you'd have to change the entire corporate culture at many big companies before they would be in a position to get 'down with their communities'.

And thanks for the '100 CDs for 100 Bloggers' shout-out!

Anonymous said...

This is still a tough one. Although I'm not convinced this move is necessarily a reaction to the mentos thing, I'm also not sure what the right move for coke is.

So, the right move was to embrace it more from the start, but they didn't. So what if you are that guy, trying to figure out where to move now, after the mistake has been made. What is the right move? Isn't this at least a step in the right direction, even if it's an imperfect one?

This requires some more thought, I think. Or maybe the diet coke I just drank is frying my brain.

Anonymous said...

It just goes to show that timing has as much a part to play in the new online world as the copntent itself.

How cynical is it for Coke (and Mentos) to now create competitions AFTER the main buzz has hit? It might drag the buzz out for a bit longer, but as soon as the corporations get involved the buzz fades.

They just don't get it.

It is the involvement of the brand that puts the users off.

The most base form of this is the old music phrase "I used to like them when they first started out but now they have signed to a big label they have gone all commercial".

It doesn't matter if the music is the same or that the band hasn't changed, but ownership of the band, with the signing to as label moves from the fans to the corporations - and the consumer HATES that.

Mack Collier said...

"How cynical is it for Coke (and Mentos) to now create competitions AFTER the main buzz has hit? It might drag the buzz out for a bit longer, but as soon as the corporations get involved the buzz fades.

They just don't get it."

I think Mentos does. They said they loved the free publicity, and have talked to Grobe and Voltz about working on future promotional campaigns for them. And then they created a contest for the videos. Basically they said 'Hey we like what you are doing, keep on doing it, and if you want to join our contest, we'll give you the chance to win prizes!'.

Coke acted like the stick-in-the-mud nanny, and told the kids to stop playing with their food, then came back and said that playing with their food was ok, as long as they do it under Coke's supervision.

Right. The lesson here is, when you are getting buzz from the community that's driving sales, you embrace it and encourage your community to continue (Mentos), you don't try to stop/control, then re-route that buzz (Coke).

Mike Abundo said...

That's why Mentos is the Freshmaker, and Coke makes you jittery.

Anonymous said...

Mike Abundo: What's up with your photo? For a second I thought I had stumbled onto "The Virgin Garden"...Mack's *other* blog.

Anonymous said...

Ann- Did you just call Mack a virgin?

That's just awesome.

Mike Abundo said...

Ann: The open shirt wasn't my idea. ;)

Anonymous said...

That's just awesome.

Brendan said...

Interesting that you use Coke in the headline thus giving them one more piece of publicity.
I wonder how many other people have written about Coke does... and how few have written Mentos allows us to...
Is it possible their marketing people don't care if you call them old and out of touch as long as you mention their name?

Weird Science Kids said...

I love the mentos and coke experiment. I did it with my 4 year old son this weekend. He learned about chemical reactions and what a volcano looks like when it erupts. Cool stuff! We found another fun site with neat science experiments like this. I will put the link below for anyone interested.

Devon said...

I agree with Mr. Anderson. As a communications official or PR Representative, this is very frustrating.