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By B.L. Ochman

Coca-Cola’s VP, Global Advertising Strategy and Creative Excellence, Jonathan Mildenhall, explains the company’s content plan until the year 2020 in this fascinating video. Another of the world’s biggest companies is moving beyond the myth of message control, into the realm of consumer reality. Hurrah!

“Through the stories we tell,” Mildenhall says, “we will provoke conversations and earn a disproportionate share of popular culture.” The brand theme is “Live Positively.” The brand storytelling, he says, must be based on a commitment to making the world a better place, something everyone in the company must live every day and which must be baked into all aspects of the company operations.

With the intention of doubling sales by 2020, Mildenall says engagement through storytelling is the root of the strategy. The brand will need to react to consumer conversations 365 days a year, 24 hours a day.

Technology enables brilliant creativity
Bigger thinking must be at the heart of everything the brand does. Content, he implores, must be “ruthlessly edited to avoid just creating noise.”

“We must integrate technologists into the core creative team,” he says, because technology can enable brilliant creativity. He cites other brands that have created deeper emotional connections through storytelling, including Dell, Nike and Ikea, and aims to make the Coca-Cola brand part of consumers’ lives, not just the soda they drink.

He notably left out Pepsi, whose marketing has long been focused on the idea that the brand has to be a lifestyle choice, and a force for good in the world.

What will it take to make all brands wake up?
Watching the video, I couldn’t help but wonder how there could still be companies on the planet that are just starting to put their toes in the social media water. Here are some of the most enormous, unwieldy, and traditional biggest brands in the world, fully embracing the value of not just monitoring conversations, but actually conversing with consumers. What will it take before every company gets the message?

Pepsi got the social media message very early on, and raised the bar for brands in 2010 with their global optimism project. It was part of Pepsi’s Refresh Project, which gave away a total of $20 million for ideas that can help advance society in six different categories.

Hats off to the brands that look for enduring engagement
Coke’s come a long way from 2006 when a Fantasia-esque amateur video went viral with two guys from Maine dropping Mentos mints into bottles of Diet Coke to create a musical geyser with cascading streams of beautiful goop. Mentos got $10 million worth of free publicity by embracing the videos. Coke’s grumpy dinosaur marketing people said “we want people to drink Coca-Cola, not play with it”.

Hats off to Coke, Pepsi, and the tiny number of companies looking beyond the shiny objects of the moment to an enduring brand message that can still have impact and cause positive change 10 years from now.

And the rest of you: wake the hell up! You can’t keep doing things the way you’ve always done them.

Bonus Link: Social Media Mastery: Wisdom from the leaders of Coca-Cola