Hey Coca-Cola, Will You Go With Me to Prom?

Ah prom season. That beloved time of year when the smell of newly pressed tuxedos, overly-sequined dresses and high school desperation fills the air. That time of year in which moms and dads fork over large wads of cash for ostentatious limos and after parties. And, most importantly, that time marketers clamor for all year long.

That’s because prom season is a marketer’s dream. From the dress boutiques to the limousine companies to the airbrush tanners and makeup artists, marketers in almost every industry are trying to capitalize on the centuries-long tradition that is prom.

And why shouldn’t they? Teenagers are such a powerful group, influencing spending habits and store preferences. In fact, a recent survey from TRU Insights revealed that the purchasing power of teens—ages 12 to 19 years old—has reached $819 billion globally. Moreover, 81 percent of teenage girls recently reported that they are more likely to purchase something if their friend already has.

Prom season can be a marketer’s best date or worst nightmare; it all depends on how you try to capitalize on this iconic time of year.

shutterstock_85907128One company that has taken a wonderfully subtle approach to prom marketing is Coca-Cola. On May 29, the soft drink vendor posted a photo from an ‘80s prom. The caption—”Fun fact: in 20 years that Coke is the only thing that won’t look outdated in your prom picture.” Take a look by clicking here.

Now in the interest of full disclosure, I should probably admit I am a Coca-Cola devotee. Not only is an open bottle sitting on my desk right now, but I am 100 percent the person at a restaurant who orders a coke and then balks when the waitress asks, “Is Pepsi OK?” No. It’s not OK. It’s not Coke and I will not drink it. And that’s not me being dramatic, that’s the truth.

But in any event, I am removing my bias to comment on why I think this is such an effective campaign. Prom is one of the greatest American traditions out there and Coke (sorry Pepsi fans) is definitely one of the most iconic brands out there—even if you don’t like the taste of their drinks.

The company’s message is simple. It’s not selling its product loudly. Conversely, it is telling consumers, in a whisper, that Coke might be a great date for your prom—whether it’s stacking your limo mini fridge with the beverage, arranging for the soda to be the drink of choice at your prom or popping open an ice cold Coke on the way from pre-prom to prom on a scorching hot summer day.

As a marketer, it is imperative to always keep your finger on the pulse when it comes to annual holidays, changing seasons and memorable milestones. For example, if your target audience is war veterans, and you are a business process outsourcer that helps returning veterans find jobs, you will surly want to  begin initiating targeted marketing weeks before Memorial Day. In another vein, if your target audience is food aficionados, you might want to tailor a strategy for when shows like “Top Chef,” “Hell’s Kitchen” and “The Next Iron Chef” premiere, as your demographic will be of the cooking/food mindset.

The bottom line—know your audience. Understand what is going on with their everyday lives and how your core competencies can fit into their world.

And kudos Coca-Cola. You never let me down, and I have to say, I was happy to make room for you in my prom limo.


**This blog received an Honorable Mention for Best Blog Entry in the 2014 Content Marketing Awards, sponsored by the Content Marketing Institute*