Sunday, December 4, 2011

Lesson's from Coca Cola's Arctic Home Promotion Gone Awry

Last month, Coca-Cola began turning all of its “red” Coke Classic cans “white” in a partnership with the World Wildlife Federation (WFF) to raise awareness for polar bears and their natural habitat. The polar bear effort seemed a perfect fit with Coca-Cola’s annual use of the animal in their holiday advertising. Their decision to turn their “red” cans into “white” received considerable backlash, to the point that the company decided to transition the can to another, mostly-red design earlier than intended during the promotion (See the Wall Street Journal’s article for more information). I think that there are two powerful lessons we can learn from the customer backlash and Coca-Cola’s response.

First, listen to client feedback and respond quickly. Coca-Cola was keenly aware of the customer response to their promotion through a variety of social media platforms and took quick action. Customer’s strong positive and negative response to the “white” can promotion did not go unnoticed. The company decided to transition the four-month-long promotion earlier than first planned to a mostly-red design to appease angry customers and put out FAQ sheets and other information to try to remove any more confusion in the minds of its consumers. For us practically, be aware of the various avenues for client feedback and LISTEN to their concerns. Actively reach out to clients for feedback and respond quickly to any issues they bring to your attention. Whether you like it or not, you are developing a word-of-mouth and online reputation and you must take the lead in managing it.

Second, focus on client concerns instead of on defending your actions or intentions. Coca-Cola took a bold step in their holiday marketing and had good intentions of raising awareness for polar bears and their natural habitat. The company could have responded to the customer backlash by trying to turn the tide of public opinion about their promotion and sticking to their plan. They could have tried to educate the customers more about their efforts and justify their advertising campaign. Instead they saw that as a no-win situation and turned their efforts to making the change back to more predominantly “red” can and assuaging customer concern. For us practically, when dealing with criticism, look for the quickest and easiest solution for your clients instead of wasting valuable time trying to defend your actions or motives. There are certainly times when more than our reputation is at stake (i.e. integrity) and we must defend ourselves, but be wise about choosing the best response to criticism. Even our good intentions and actions are misinterpreted and criticized and you much chose the best response in each instance.

There are many other lessons that can be learned from Coca-Cola’s most recent fiasco, but I hope that these two lessons can help each of us become more successful and better handle customer criticism as it arises.
Kyle Pfaffe, REALTOR®
Keller Williams Realty
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