Social Symphony


Gunther Koo - Thursday, April 26, 2012

At the recent ANA Masters of Marketing sessions in NYC, big brands like Coca Cola, Unilever and Anheuser Busch outlined how much things are changing. They described their new course based on today’s reality of people with a loud voice and showed they are far along in execution to harness this power of the people.

They made clear that they have made a dramatic turn and are midway on their new course… pointing at building direct relationships with people.  Each of these global brand leaders shared how they are embracing people as partners in their global growth and how social has become a key component of their success. These gentleman had more to say than can appear here, this is what stuck in my ear.

Joe Tripodi CMO The Coca-Cola Company spoke about getting comfortable, losing control, and  building a path to help Coke loyalists become advocates. Stating that advocacy for your brand is the highest level of marketing, he declared that people are becoming a brands strongest allies and an extension of their sales force.

Joe spoke about Coke implementing an enterprise-wide social strategy, stating that “we have no choice, it is what people want.”  He spoke of how Coke is engaging the market through positive communications with “Coke Happiness” offering a brand promise of fun, freedom and refreshment that resonates the world over. 

To do this Coke is becoming an agent of positive change in the world and leading a cultural dialogue between people helping people share a Coke and activating Coke employees worldwide, to come together and embrace change in a new way.  Joe finished with an App that let you buy a Coke for random people all over the world showing smiling strangers connecting around their Cokes and Coke machines.

Chris Burggraeve CMO Anheuser-Busch InBev spoke about how beer is the world's original social network, helping real people to connect in real life for thousands of years, turning complete strangers into best friends forever. AB is using all social network, making them meaningful and creating a direct-to-people channel, filled with content that is relevant to them.

AB builds the line, “Grab some Buds’” into everything they do and links it back to social media thereby pulling people in to build relationships.  They have changed their thinking from seeing a person as a target, to a mindset in which true consumer empathy -understanding how people see themselves, their hopes, emotions, fears and aligning with them to be a positive force in their lives.

Now the focus is on “Fans First,” 30 million fans and growing. Fans are people who have elected to enter into one-on-one dialogue and AB is building a social beer eco system always focused on Fans First to drive positive brand health into the future. 

Marc Mathieu SVP  Marketing Unilever – Spoke of a fundamental shift to purpose driven marketing that is changing the corporate culture at Unilever. “We are embracing the vision and reality of a sustainable culture so we can have a world of abundant resources where 9 ½ billion people live sustainably. This is about promoting a world of optimism. “Marc is calling for a “’Reinvention of Marketing’ by putting people at center as human beings not targets.”

He spoke of marketing and the TV show Mad Men’s tag line… “Where the truth lies.” That he understood the word play and asked, do we really want to keep lying? He challenged all to think through what will work in a social world where people see through lies easily. “Social gives no choice… adopt or die”.

Marc noted that digital opens the door to everyone to be a marketer and they are moving fast to build their advocate base on three pillars: putting people first, creating brands with purpose, and rebalancing the logic and magic of marketing. Unilever will promote the idea of pure water, of sustainable food, of good health and democratize the idea that all people should have access to these.


These brands are on the right path. They are helping people talk about themselves in relation to the brand. They are making deeper, more meaningful connections around what is important to people. They are understanding what is missing in people and helping them find what is truly meaningful to them related to the brand. That is how you build relationships and create passionate brand advocates.

The words Happiness, Purpose, Empathy are exciting to hear from the folks with the budgets who will determine the direction of marketing. They are putting into practice what we have been saying for years, that “your brand is no longer what you say it is, it is what people say it is.”

When people have your megaphone, when 85% of all video’s on YouTube about Coke were not created by Coke… you have to figure out a way to get comfortable not being in control. The way is to create and make available a Conversational Identity™, a deeper, more meaningful and fully formed social personality that will help people relate and share a positive message about your brand.

How you think about marketing matters, how you think about people matters, your vocabulary matters. Talking about targets, campaigns, conquest, consumers… all send messages to your team and partners that nothing has really changed and we can all wink and nod our way through this… that TV will bail brands out in the end. Those days have ended. The new day is truly based on power to the people, orchestrated around a recognition of our basic humanity and its pretty awesome.