My Take on the “Kissed by” Campaign by Coca-Cola


A friend asked me for my take on the global “Kissed By” campaign by Coke that is now running on billboards and social media channels across Canada. You know, the ones with Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley or Ray Charles?

Kissed By Marilyn - Coca-Cola Campaign
Kissed By Marilyn – Coca-Cola Campaign

It’s inspired by a quote by artist Andy Warhol, “Kissed By” in that anyone can be “kissed by” Coca-Cola by simply taking a sip from their iconic glass bottle. The deeper meaning Coca-Cola wants you to take away is that Coca-Cola connects us across generations and across the globe through the simple act of drinking an icy cold Coca-Cola.

This is the deep emotional connection we marketers dream of.

But why is Coke doing this?

Here’s “My Take” on Coke’s strategy and what you as a leader can take away and apply to your own organization:

1. Find an excuse to talk to your audience. No one is sitting around waiting to celebrate 100 years of the Coke bottle. The recipe for Coke is not changing either so there’s not a lot of innovation or newsworthy things to talk about on a regular basis. Coke has found a way to build a campaign on nothing, which is great. They’ve taken (somewhat) global icons and created a unique emotional spin on the act of drinking their product. Throw in some Andy Warhol references (see the Nestle Pellegrino and Perrier bottles) and voilà: a hip campaign that we hope people start to hash-tag in their social media channels to gain some unearned media. I don’t think it’s going viral any time soon as it’s not a natural fit for how people view drinking a coke, especially when they can’t even find an iconic glass bottle in stores. But we’re talking about it, albeit for a brief time.

What anniversary or event can you use to talk to your customers? What symbol can you use to resonate with your audience? Maybe it’s a community milestone? The first shipment of peanut butter into the country? All you need is a connected event and excuse to tell it to your audience in a memorable way.

2. Leverage one idea as much as possible. McCann is the agency that created this campaign for Coke. Now all country divisions are running the same ads everywhere. The only cost to the countries is the media to run the ads, maybe some translation, and handling the country specific social media channels. The costs of creating the campaign, the initial designs, revisions, and everything else that goes into it is paid for. This is great leverage.

When I was at P&G and Frito Lay, there was an underlying feeling that we didn’t want to take US or Global creative and run it in Canada. We wanted to create our own or we wanted to change up the promotional idea far too quickly because we were tired of it and thought consumers would be tired of it too. That’s really stupid thinking. Save the money and run with the creative because consumers don’t think too hard about it anyway. They just see it as Coke doing pop-culture stuff that’s in line with the brand. Stop being hyper-busy trying to “add value” and just run with it and for longer! Consumers need more repetition, especially for light-users who will drive incremental purchases. Then you can spend more time building the business and focused on larger strategic priorities.

3. Use packaging as a competitive advantage. In 1915 Coke was seeing an increase in copycat cola brands. One of their solutions was to create a bottle to be highly distinctive, recognized by touch alone and identifiable even when in the dark or shattered on the floor. That was the creative brief Coke gave to The Root Glass Company of Terre Haute Indiana. This unique bottle has lasted over 100 years and is an owned and distinct brand mark.

Almost every product needs packaging but rarely do companies have the vision or courage to make their packaging truly distinct or memorable. They usually cheap out on more cost-effective materials and moulds and the shapes are boring to minimize freight costs. These benefits are good but I think they’re missing out on the incremental sales volume they could achieve with a distinct package when it pops off the shelf and creates a distinct position in the market. The next time you’re thinking of launching a product ask yourself if the next generation will run a campaign about your package in 100 years from today. That’s a pretty inspiring bar to meet.

From the moment you hear the delightful sound of a Coca-Cola bottle opening to the moment your lips “kiss” the rim, I hope you think about this post and challenge yourself to think differently.