5 branding lessons from Coca-Cola Journey’s second anniversary

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Coca-Cola Journey—the brand’s effort to break away from a static corporate website and flat press releases—celebrated its second anniversary Wednesday.

Coke’s PR team has learned many lessons over the two years of Coke Journey’s online life. Here are the top five, direct from Journey’s senior editor, Jay Moye.

1. Content is king, but only if you give it the throne.

The website is the responsibility of the company’s digital communications and social media team, which includes six full-time content creators. Two are dedicated to Journey’s editorial content and publishing.

“We really feel like it’s not just the responsibility of our advertising colleagues to produce great content,” Moye says. “It’s up to us, too.”

Since its launch, Coke Journey has published more than 2,000 stories and more than 10,000 videos. Though most of the content is branded, the team also realizes the value of other worthy content. As Moye explains:

About a third of what we publish does not have an explicit connection to Coca-Cola. Coca-Cola is not in the headline. And the strategy there is, really, it’s about authenticity and credibility. We want to be seen as a credible resource for fun, smart content.

[RELATED: Give your stories a fighting chance with distracted audiences. Learn from the pros at our PR and Digital Content Summit.]

We realized pretty early on that if we published Coca-Cola in every headline, we’d be talking to ourselves.

2. Be authentic.

“‘Authenticity always wins’ is a statement I’ve shared a lot recently,” Moye says.

Millennials are the ruling audience for Coke Journey: 59 percent of its readers are 18 to 35 years old. Not only does this demographic like to share—the “is your name on a Coke bottle?” campaign garnered more than 8,000 social media shares—but members of that group like reading stories they can relate to.

“People need to be at the heart of your stories,” Moye says. “People want to read a story that makes them connect with, again, a personality instead of a product.”

3. Go global, but don’t forget your local roots.

Though 60 percent of Coke Journey’s audience is American, the site brings in readers from about 200 countries.

There are individual country “hubs,” too. Eight international Coke Journey sites—Ukraine, New Zealand, Australia, Morocco, France, Japan, Russia, and Germany—will soon be joined by Spain.

Moye says the Atlanta team often exchanges information and content with international teams. This not only helps each site retain a unique personality but also uncovers stories that are globally relevant, such as when crates of Coke were passed over the Berlin Wall during its demolition in 1989.

“We want [the international sites] to appear as a family and to look cohesive, but we also want them to have local flavor and to be relevant for local readers,” Moye says. “Because what we’re publishing in Atlanta is not what a reader in Ukraine or Morocco is interested in.”

4. Don’t underestimate the power of visuals.

Moye said one of his favorite stories from the past two years is the Millicuddys’ #ShareaCoke baby announcement:

The video has more than 4 million views on YouTube alone, and it’s completely fan-made. It’s a great example of how curated content can go even further than brand-created pieces—especially if it’s visually appealing.

“You hear that a picture is worth a thousand words,” Moye says. “I think a video can maybe even be worth 10,000 words.”

He also says that writers and editors should realize, when using visuals, it “often means that 1,000 words need to go out the window.”

5. Let data drive your content.

“Another statement that we use is ‘data trumps politics,'” Moye says.

Letting data drive decisions involve listening, and the team monitors social media as well as analytics for metrics, conversations, and other indicators to tell them what readers want.

Readers and consumers can be quite vocal about their preferences. Moye says the group that petitioned Coke to bring back Surge not only started a Facebook page but also organized “Surge days,” when people would call and request the soda. They also placed a crowd-funded billboard outside Coca-Cola’s Atlanta headquarters.

Data drives every editorial decision with Coke Journey, because it’s not just about producing high-quality content. It’s about finding what will resonate with your audience.

Want to learn more about the brand’s storytelling revolution? Moye will be our #RaganSocial guest host Tuesday, Nov. 18, at 2 p.m. Central time. 

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