Share a Coke: More Evidence on Real Effectiveness

I've followed Coca-Cola's "Share A Coke" campaign with interest. The campaign ties together user-generated photos, social media, the chance to win prizes and physical Coke bottles emblazoned with names from Aaron to Zach and group names like "Family" and "Friends"; even nicknames, like "BFF" and "Wingman."

The campaign, launched in the U.S. in June, generated terrific buzz, including the Wall Street Journal hailing the success at generating positive traction on Twitter and Instagram. But other media, like Forbes and Marketing Week have been more critical lately because it hasn't reversed Coke's slumping sales. Businessweek featured Coke's problems as a recent cover story.

I'm offering up a "not-so-fast" caution to both of these viewpoints. At the Medill IMC Spiegel Digital & Database Research Center, we completed a study, analyzing the effect of a customer's social engagement on their subsequent purchase behavior. We've found that customers who participate in content co-creation on social media, including those who merely view it, spend more on the brand immediately and over time. Our research analyzed a database from Air Miles, the Canadian coalition loyalty program, and we found that Air Miles customers who participated in an Air Miles co-creation event in its social media forum lifted their spending more than 40 percent. Four weeks after participating, their spending was still lifted by 29 percent.

These increases are terrific. The research is the result of a fabulous dataset from Air Miles loyalty program and its custom social media forum, which, at the time or our project, was for Air Miles users only.

Tracking individual purchase behavior, particularly linking it to an individual's social media behavior is difficult, if not impossible today in the consumer package good industry. But, based on these results, we suspect Coke is seeing terrific purchase increases among those who are participating.

So, Coke, if you've not done so, take a look at the behavior of the teens and Millenials most likely to be participating in the campaign, and model our results using the subset of people who are participating.

And because of Coke's loyalty program "My Coke Rewards," and Coke's Freestyle app, we suspect that's just what they've done.

Because this campaign originated in Australia in 2011, we suspect Coke has already done its research and reached the conclusion that "Share A Coke" is in fact driving real results among those who are actively engaged.

Additional good news is that we found that customers don't have to actively participate in a social media contest to have their spending affected. In our Air Miles research we found that the purchase behavior of viewers of a co-creation event lifted their spending significantly as well. Some low spending Air Miles customers lifted their spending more than 40 percent. And that spending lift persisted for three weeks.

So, we'd like to offer a resounding: "Carry on, Coke!" for what we suspect is a genuinely unique way to engage a typically illusive target audience.

And best of luck finding equally creative ways of engaging with those who have not yet found a way to "Share A Coke."