For an aspirational brand like Coca-Cola, customer experience is of the utmost importance. As Head of Brand Experience for Central and Eastern Europe, Drossos Drossos explains that this strategy is embraced from the highest levels of the company and is localized for every market within the business units. To define this strategy and ensure complete adoption across the organization, the company conducted extensive research to create global charters and parameters for its core messaging, and each market is able to adapt the messaging to ensure that it resonates with local consumers to achieve optimal outcomes.
Getting the full organization on board with the customer experience strategy posed certain challenges, according to Drossos, as different teams must compete among themselves to an extent in order to secure the budgets they need to run various programs.
“In order to be awarded budget for various initiatives, you need to have the strongest arguments for how the programs will be run on a central and BU level,” he explains. “With an organization-wide strategy, it is also important to build a culture that embraces change and works to stay one step ahead in order to show that we are operating in the best interests of the company.”
Because the customer experience strategy is executed by local teams, Drossos says the local countries own the strategy within their own regions, although the strategic thinking for the overall guidelines and parameters is developed centrally. While he says it is impossible to claim that they have completely achieved perfection when it comes to the customer experience, they work to stay ahead of the curve and replicate positive learnings and outcomes.
“Customer experience is a never-ending journey, and we learn more every single day,” he says. “Each and every case is different, and there are always new battles to be won. Every market has its own specificities, and the experience ultimately changes depending on the project. For the FIFA World Cup, for example, even though we have already run campaigns for the event in years past, it is always a different experience because the competition always takes place in a different country and requires a different story.”
Millennials and teenagers present particularly unique challenges for the brand as their expectations are constantly changing. In response, Drossos says it is critical for them to continue evolving to remain relevant with these audiences.
“We need to fish where the fish are, and for younger audiences, we know they have mobile phones that are essentially an extension of their own hands,” he says. “We are finding that our campaigns are still impactful for them, and when they share these experiences on social media, we know that is a really important way to gauge reach and success for this audience. This is what we’re trying to achieve with every event and activation.”
Timing and cadence for engagement also present unique challenges because, as a large company, Coca-Cola has several layers of execution, which requires additional reaction time. However, because trends change so quickly, Drossos says they are always planning ahead and working to keep pace with this rate of change.
“We always have assets that are ready to be deployed immediately, but sometimes we need to be able to react based on a specific event that is taking place right here and now,” he explains. “We want to be able to seize those opportunities, but there is a science behind it. I would say that 70 percent of what we deploy is based on what we know we do very well, another 20 percent is based on what works well within the different business units, and another 10 percent is totally uncharted territory where we work to address needs or challenges on the spot.”
To better understand what kinds of engagement will be most valued by customers, Coca-Cola conducts quite a bit of research internally and with outsourced agencies, in addition to consumer panels in different locations to determine the flavor profiles that are most appealing to audiences in different regions. They also conduct market variance analysis to determine which efforts are most successful across different audiences and regions.
The company also follows trends in an effort to remain a step ahead of customers’ expectations through a program in which they recommend different products for individual consumers in an effort to deliver what they want or need throughout a given day.
“Some people may want Coke, milk, water or tea at different times of the day, and it is our job to find the right offering for different types of people at different times of the day,” he explains. “We want to be one step ahead and deliver what they would expect in order to spearhead the experience for them.”
When it comes to technological capabilities, Drossos says they incorporate new tools now and then to help them gather insights that they couldn’t previously access, but given the relationships that the company has with various bottlers, it is still difficult to gain a full view of customer data. The company also must work through variances in the data that they gather through research versus the market variance analysis they perform in order to align those findings and gain a clear view of the findings and what they mean for a given market.
When it comes to real-time insights, Drossos says the company often has pop-up shops and events in which they offer something of value to consumers, and in those instances the company can gain real-time information about who participates in these events. This sometimes even includes the opportunity to meet or interact with an influencer, and in these cases, the company is able to see how long someone is willing to wait for the opportunity to participate in these interactions.
“These opportunities give us the ability to measure brand love and affinity, but we also want to be able to take it a step further to determine how it impacts the brand,” he says. “These are the things that we want to learn from consumers so that we understand how to best meet their needs.”