3 Content Marketing Ideas You Should
Steal from Coca Cola

Image of the Coca-Cola logo

Joe Pulizzi over at the Content Marketing Institute recently shared a fascinating video presentation from Coca-Cola about their upcoming marketing strategy.

The short version?

Content marketing has arrived.

For more than 100 years, Coca-Cola has been one of the world’s foremost practitioners of what they call “one-way storytelling.”

(You and I call that an advertisement.)

But Coke — in the form of their brilliant VP of global advertising strategy, Jonathan Mildenhall — is looking around and realizing that the 30-second television ad won’t take them where they want to go next.

To do that, they’re turning to the tool that’s quickly becoming the most important strategy for smaller businesses — content marketing.

For anyone who still thinks that content marketing is some kind of fad, take a look at the thinking (and dollars) going into Coca-Cola’s marketing strategy, aimed at doubling worldwide consumption of Coke by the year 2020.

The videos are compelling, but they’re also packed with advertising jargon that can be about as intelligible as Klingon.

And yet, this is a peek into a great marketing and advertising mind — and there are some juicy strategies we can carry off and implement in the real world.

Here are a few of my favorite ideas from Mildenhall’s presentation.

Idea #1: “Liquid and linked” content

“Liquid and linked” is the phrase Coke’s marketing team is using to describe its developing content strategy.

Understand that a giant company like Coca-Cola creates countless “stories” every year. These “stories” are created by multiple agencies and in multiple formats — a mobile app one day, a viral video another, a really good television ad the third.

Mildenhall describes these stories as being like molecules in a glass of Coke. Each molecule is an individual piece of content, but they’re also bound together. There’s unity there … a content strategy that acts like the “glass,” giving shape to the whole endeavor.

There’s a balance between control — keeping your content “linked” by a coherent idea, and chaos — allowing your content to be “liquid” and to wander around the Net, being shared and even altered along the way.

How you can use it: Make your content good enough, remarkable enough, to be “liquid” — to be shared outside your own circle of influence.

But don’t forget to keep your content “linked” to a strong sense of who you are and what you offer. Viral doesn’t do you any good if it’s not linked to an underlying business strategy and goal.

Idea #2: The 70/20/10 content plan

This is a nice framework for a complex content marketing strategy, but you can also lift it directly for a much simpler program. (Like the kind normal businesses create.)

Mildenhall argues for 70% of the content you create as being “low-risk” — what he calls “bread and butter content.”

Because it’s less controversial, less risky, it also takes proportionally less time.

(Please keep in mind that “bread and butter” doesn’t mean boring or low-quality. It just means that it’s the kind of solid, useful content your audience expects.)

20% of content “innovates off of what works” … it’s more in-depth, it takes more time and energy to create, and it connects more deeply with a well-defined segment ofyour audience. Ideally, of course, that’s a segment that buys your products or services.

The final 10% is what Mildenhall calls “high risk” content. These are brand new ideas — the wild hair stuff that might work … and might fail.

Mildenhall makes the point that it’s this risky 10% where your future 20% and 70% content will come from. Today’s loony idea is tomorrow’s cornerstone content.

This is also the content that will keep you from burning out creatively. It keeps you excited about what you’re doing, and allows you to keep evolving in a fast-moving environment.

How you can use it: Too many content marketers don’t actually know what their 70% content is. What topics and keywords are most important to your readers? What are your audience’s key desires and problems, and how can you speak to them?

20% content takes the 70% and goes deeper. Maybe it’s a special report, or a video series, or a free email course.

Once in awhile, a content idea even evolves into a full-blown product.

And your 10% content is what keeps you sane. It’s content that reaches out to the edges, or comes at your topic in an entirely new way. Your audience might not be there yet, or they might be right there with you. You don’t know until you put it out there.

Idea #3: Content excellence

Content excellence is part of Mildenhall’s official job title, which I think is quite cool.

In his presentation, Mildenhall says,

The role of content excellence is to behave like a ruthless editor, otherwise we risk just creating noise.

Unfortunately, he says this immediately after saying “The development of incremental elements of a brand idea that get dispersed systematically across multiple channels of conversation for the purposes of creating a unified and coordinated brand experience,” proving even the best of us sometimes needs to take our own medicine.

Content excellence is the first rule of Copyblogger.

Too many would-be marketers try to dance over this one.

Without excellence, the time you spend on content marketing will be entirely wasted.

How you can use it: The first thing you need to do is to be honest with yourself. If you can’t create content that’s damned good, you need to either get better or you need to partner with someone who’s got the talent to create content that’s worth your audience’s attention.

How about you?

Those are three of Coca-Cola’s ideas about where content marketing is heading. How about you? Did you find some great strategies of your own in the videos? What are the exciting ideas informing your own marketing — and how are you implementing them?

Let us know in the comments.

About the Author: Sonia Simone is co-founder and CMO of Copyblogger Media. Share your brilliant content marketing ideas with her on twitter.

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Reader Comments (54)

  1. says

    The 70/20/10 ratio is an interesting concept, but I can’t get over how much bullshit there is in that video.

    Plain English, it’s the future.

  2. says

    Haven’t checked the video but I like Idea #2 – the 70/20/10 rule. How do you figure that out?

    My own challenge was that I focused too much on the 20/10 and lost sight of the 70% that would keep my blog alive. I didn’t have the fallback content that would keep me blogging through the tough times when truly excellent content just seemed difficult to produce.

    Then again, maybe it’s just me needing to develop blogging competence. Whatever. I need to find that 70%. Any suggestions?

    • says

      IMO if you focus on the top 10 worries and problems of your audience around your topic, you find your 70%. If you really have no idea, hold a free Q&A on one of the teleseminar services and find out just what questions they have. Then answer.

      The biggest problem people have with the 70% (besides not knowing what it is) is fear of repeating themselves. You’re going to repeat yourself.

  3. says

    Too many marketers over think content marketing. The “70” concept is great. As long as content provides some kind of value, that’s all that matters. Not every piece of content is going to be “killer” and go viral. Simply focus on the needs of your target audience. If they get some kind of benefit, it’s worth creating.

  4. says

    I really like the 70/20/10 content plan–like Ronald, I sometimes get swept up in spending too much time on the 20/10 and in the past, it’s gotten to a point where it’s overwhelming trying to always be new. Bringing my focus back to the bread and butter time and again is what’s brought me out of burn out–so it’s intriguing to read about using it for the opposite purpose (that letting yourself have that 10 percent can keep you from getting burned out from too much focus on bread and butter).

    It’s nice to read that I don’t just have to use bread and butter content when I’m exhausted from trying to stay at the edge of what my clients are ready for, but rather that I could rely on it for the majority of my content. Thanks Sonia!

  5. Kathleen Connell says

    Great framework. Examples would help. Coke has yet to exceed “I would like to give the world a Coke”, although the Polar Bears came close. We will see this Super Bowl! Thanks.

  6. says

    I love the 70/20/10 concept. I blog on how to use financial management to help you win in business. Not a topic that excites most people until they are faced with a cash crisis. So I have been looking at making my message more fun by using more visuals (I love Dan Roam’s stuff). At the same time, I don’t want to make it too quirky that I alienate the entrepreneurs running larger businesses that are part of my follower base (and where most of my consulting work is).

    The 20/10 clarifies for me that the new and fun approaches can be the smaller part of my message while I see what works and what seems to resonate best with the people that are ready to take control of the financial side of their business.

    Man, it can be rough being a financial guy with a blog! :-)

    Great article!!! You ROCK Sonia.

  7. says

    The biggest lesson I get from this is that “content is king”, all over again. We’re going to see many others coy Coke’s focus. And eventually we’ll see it happen with small business.

    • says

      Thanks Jenny! I think content excellence is the “killer app” of the whole thing, but it’s often sort of brushed aside because it seems obvious. But as is so often the case, common knowledge is not common practice.

  8. says

    Coke is smart enough to utilize all forms of new media to get their message across. They’re earlier form of content marketing was to put a coupon for a free Coca Cola in the hands of as many people across the country as they could. Once they hooked them with FREE, those nickels started pouring in. From billboards to glasses, to serving trays in the old days, to radio then TV now the Internet and mobile. I think Coke will always be an earlier adopter to get their message across.

    I’ve always been fascinated by the history of Coca Cola and how they built their brand from a simple syrup formula into the most recognized company across the globe. Read “For God, Country, and Coca Cola” and you’ll get a little more understanding of what they did throughout the years to create the big red machine.

  9. says

    This is really interesting stuff and each of the points is content excellence; meaning that I get to take something valuable from each of them. There is so much mediocre content swimming around the internet and unfortunately, even the best of us fall into that trap. I like the idea of creating liquid and linked excellent content. It is great when my posts get shared, but that should not be the aim with which I created them. Thank you for this post.

  10. says

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. It takes a certain knack to be able to do something a certain way and also to be able to figure out how to appropriately be able to do that. It can be a while before we each learn how to do our own 70-20-10 plan but I think that might be a good start for the rest of us to be able to get what we want from our marketing efforts.

  11. says

    Another quality Sonia headline.

    Check this out. We know that the explainer video – that we have a 7 figure business running – is doomed. It’ll EXPLODE for 18-24 months and then die.

    What will replace it will look more like a video game than an explainer video. The demo environments will be frictionless and a layer of narration will be woven in to an adaptive home page/lanidng page experience.

    It’s beyond obvious that someone’s going to do this, so why not us? And, it’s beyond obvious that we’re dead if we don’t figure out the next 36 months.

  12. says

    Content marketing tips from Coca Cola ALMOST make up for New Coke … almost. :)

    What’s interesting about the presentation (once you sift out all the jargon) is that any one of these pieces could stand on its own, or be combined into something truly amazing.

    • says

      It’s really true, there’s a ton in there.

      I used to work with the guy who was VP of Marketing for Coke USA when they rolled out New Coke. When you asked him about it he would get a sheepish grin and change the subject. :) (He also launched Diet Coke, so you know, he had a couple of successes too.) :)

      (edited to get Michael’s title right)

  13. says

    Why can’t we all be Copyblogger? Heh… These ideas are great for us who sometimes lack inspiration (or maybe talent). Thanks, Sonia!

  14. says

    What I really like about this, is how you took the brilliant ideas of the Coke marketing Gods, in their borderline incoherent mother-tongue, and translated for CB readers, and did it very well.

    Thanks for this, the more people who take this to heart, the higher the bar will be for content in general :)

  15. Gordon Rowland says

    The Coca Cola marketing strategy recalls Shakespeare’s Macbeth: ‘A tale, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.’ Nothing but global dominance and profit, despite Coca Cola’s negative effects on human health and environment. (For more info, ‘The Coke Machine: The Dirty Truth Behind the World’s Favorite Soft Drink’, by Michael Blanding.)

  16. says

    Regardless of what people think about Coke, I walked away from this article with great stuff! Thank you!
    #3 is something I have been mulling over for some time. I have a blog dedicated to faith, technology, and leadership. While I know that I could study the ins and outs of SEO and try to work the keywords and and marketing techniques, what I really want to do is offer stellar content. Right now I am asking myself, “How can I write on my passions without just adding another voice to a room of shouting people?” Thoughts?

  17. says

    Great article! Really like the The 70/20/10 content plan, a lot of the time content is just put together with the idea that it all carries equal relevance and as a result the discussion generated is weak.

  18. says

    Great ideas here.

    I particularly like the 70/20/10 percentage split for content. It reminds me of the advice a lot of money experts offer to people looking to invest…Where you put most of your money in something safe, but risk a small amount in something a little wilder, a little less predictable.

    I’m definitely gonna try to incorporate more edgier content into all my blogs from here onwards.

  19. says

    You and I were on virtually the same wavelength and post-publishing cycle, Sonia. I, too, was particularly interested in Coke’s 70/20/10 investment recipe and thought it might be a model other organizations — especially large enterprises — could use as a thought starter, if not necessarily copy wholesale.

    Lots of big thinking and possibility behind those animated illustrations from Cognitive Media. Let’s check back in a year and see how Coke is delivering on its vision. And whether “content excellence” translates to relevance, thought leadership, entertainment, thinly veiled promotion, etc. — and in what percentages.

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