Pros and Cons of Personalized Marketing: Take a Tip From Coke

shutterstock_196241660Personalized marketing is one way to attract consumers to your brand—and Coke has grabbed a hold of the concept fairly literally with its latest marketing campaign. The beverage company has labeled bottles of its famous confectionary drink with 250 of the most popular names of today’s teens and millennials. The campaign, which hit U.S. shores in June, after getting its start in Australia in 2012, is titled “Share a Coke.”

To promote its newest campaign, Coke is running a nine-week ad campaign that includes TV commercials, theater ads, and social and digital venues. And if your name is not one of the most popular 250 featured on the label, consumers can purchase customized mini-cans at one of Coke’s 500 “stops” across the country or go online to personalize a virtual bottle to post on social media (use hashtag #shareacoke on Twitter). To date, 353,000 virtual bottles have been shared on the “Share a Coke” website.


So, how’s the strategy paying off for Coke? According to The Wall Street Journal, the campaign has generated steadily growing online buzz, particularly on Instagram. The company reports more than 125,000 posts about the campaign across all social media channels from June 2 through July 14—96 percent of it positive.

And according to social media analytics firm Networked Insights, the Share a Coke campaign is generating more brand conversation for Coke than any other summer campaigns for other beverage companies like Coors Light and Bud Light.

 “The Share a Coke hashtag and campaign-specific website are smart content marketing plays, but the offline act of sharing Coke prompts many consumers to talk about the campaign through digital channels as well,” said Rick Miller, Networked Insights’ VP of strategic insights.

Miller makes a good point as consumers who decide to share a personal photo or write something about a campaign can have a greater impact on their friends than traditional advertising. In fact, 66 percent of all brand-related word-of-mouth conversations are “mostly positive,” according to an Infographic by Word of Mouth Marketing Association, and only 8 percent is reported to be negative.

In terms of audience participation, then, Coke is doing quite well. But there’s also an implied warning here for marketers about trying too hard to indulge individuals. While Coke’s type of personalization is not at all invasive, social media websites and platforms that use personal information in ways that are not so privacy-neutral often upset consumers.

The most popular example of this being Facebook’s ads, which are tailored to a user’s personal search history and likes. Sometimes this means that consumers receive advertisements tailored to their personal needs, meaning that they are spared ads that do not interest them. On the other hand, however, the question of privacy comes up, and using personal information for commercial gain can be seen as quite intrusive.

So, how can a marketer walk the thin line between personalization and invasion of privacy? The best strategy for marketers is to be organic, not sneaky. Here are a couple tips:

  • Encourage people to think of themselves as the center of your brand’s story
  • Reward people for their time by being useful and fun
  • Personalize visitor experiences; track and tailor services (it’s about understanding the consumer, not sounding like a friend per se)