“Do not only follow them: be one of them”

How Coca-Cola reaches out to Millennials in Central and Eastern Europe

In Hungary, influencers were the strongest leg of Coca-Cola’s Kiss Happiness campaign last year, while in Poland the campaign focused on social content generation through 40 YouTube-vloggers. To spread the benefits of having a meal together, the brand worked with a local "mom influencer" in Serbia and the winner of a master chef competition in Hungary. Our conversation with Renáta Leszkay-Kovács, Marketing Manager at Coca-Cola Hungary was about how Coca-Cola communicates with Millennials - also called as Generation Y - in several Central and Eastern European countries, and what ways is this generation different in the East and in the West.

Renáta Leszkay-Kovács, Marketing Manager at Coca-Cola Hungary Coca-Cola has recently introduced a new marketing strategy and changed its slogan form “Open Happiness” to “Taste the Feeling”. How does the new campaign perform globally and in Central and Eastern Europe?

The ‘One Brand’ creative platform is an exciting new strategic direction the company took earlier this year. The global “Taste the Feeling” campaign unites all Coca-Cola variants under the iconic Coca-Cola positioning, placing the product itself in the center. The multi-platform campaign launch received a very positive overall feedback, and generated significant traction among consumers, influencers and media alike, in the Central and Southern European markets.

Which Millennial trends does Coca-Cola ride in its campaigns? For instance, what legs did the Kiss Happiness campaign – the one that celebrated the centennial of Coca-Cola's iconic bottle – have in Hungary?

Our Generation Y target group is an expert in multitasking and is hyper-connected.  We therefore had a multifaceted campaign with a number of interactive legs. The roll-out phase included TV and was a strong, nationwide campaign with famous influencers who showed how the 100-year-old contour glass bottle is still part of the local pop culture. Our influencers did not only kiss the Coca-Cola bottle on outdoor media, but were also active through social media, creating an opportunity for Generation Y to interact and engage with them.

This particular target group found our pop-up store exciting: we had 35,000 visitors a week. They could buy accessories signed by Avicii and Rita Ora and get a special contour bottle with their photo on it. As this segment is socially responsible, we organized a "bottles' second life" workshop where we saw great creations of recycling like soap dispenser and decoration materials: vases and lamps, among many others.

So the influencer leg was particularly emphasized. Why is it good to reach out to young people through them?

Influencers are influential because they have already built an audience. Our aim was to gain additional reach and engagement through our influencers having pre-established audience who already were receptive to their ideas and recommendations. It was a relatively easy task, as we had an appealing content. Our influencers easily became engaged and supportive. The outdoor media series of famous influencers kissing the Coke bottle was only done to such large extent in Hungary within Central and Eastern Europe.

 
Hungarian singer Fluor and swimmer Zsuzsanna Jakabos 

As for your experience, does communication have to be different towards Western European and Central and Eastern European Millennials?

Y is the first global generation of the world, the first children of a global community, who have been brought up by the same music, food, movies and fashion. They practically learnt to use internet before learning to write or read.  This means that the differences only depend on how developed the social media, digital, and mobile tools are in Western and Central-Eastern Europe. There is minimal difference, if any, in their inherent behavioral preferences.

What differences do Central and Eastern European countries have with regards to the Millennial target group?

I think it is generally true that there are more similarities than differences in these various markets. Media usage patterns indeed vary because social media platforms have different penetration in these markets. In Poland, Twitter has a high affinity with teens, while it is less popular in Romania and Hungary. In smaller markets like Hungary and the Czech Republic, Snapchat is quickly expanding, while Instagram is ever more remarkable in Hungary. In Poland, YouTubers have a steady followers' base. Last year, a local influencer reached 7.3 million views of his channel with his localized Coca-Cola "Kiss Happiness" song. Each market will continue to invest their paid media into channels which represent the highest reach and can provide the best engagement scores. In Hungary, we keep on focusing on Facebook too, as among Central and Eastern Europe, Facebook population is the youngest in this country and this age group is of high strategic importance for us.

Polish singer-songwriter Margaret recorded the Polish version of "First Time", the song that appeared in the brand's TV spot which celebrated 100 years of the iconic Coca-Cola glass bottle design.

In what ways did the Kiss Happiness campaign differ in individual countries? Did influencers get engaged in other Central and Eastern European countries?

Throughout the 130 years of the Coca-Cola history, working with influencers has always been common. The global contour campaign showcased how Marylin or Elvis had kissed the Coca-Cola bottle and how Rita Ora and Avicii followed their path. On top of that, in Hungary, we were proud to show that also local opinion leaders from different sectors like music, art and sport kissed the contour Coke bottle.  This was a unique local reinforcement of the global campaign. In Poland though, there is a huge YouTuber community, so their campaign reinforcement was rather focused on social generation through the content produced by more than 40 vloggers.

Do Central and Eastern European countries adopt best practices of each other? Was there any campaign that was first launched as a local one, and was later adopted by other countries within the region? 

Besides the before mentioned influencer photoshoot with Coke, which apparently travelled to other markets, we are proud that the pop-up store series of events had its very first stage in Hungary, out of the 7 markets it travelled to. Serbia piloted a year ago working with a local "mom influencer" to spread information on the benefits of having a meal together as an ambassador of Coca-Cola. This has spread across all Central and Eastern European countries, while in Hungary, we adapted it with a twist - not with a mom, but with a Generation Y man, Dani Sass, the finalists of the Master Chef Competition. This year, Hungary and Romania are piloting a platform called Cokestream that gives ‘phygital’ entertainment for teens in Central and Eastern Europe and in which Café Communications (edited: weCAN partner agency) in Hungary is one of our key strategic partners, besides Eastaste (edited: a music-licensing agency specialized in Eastern European bands). This will only be able to travel once we have a proof of success in the national market.  

Minja, Serbian food blogger, cookbook author and triple mom

Corporate social responsibility is an important buzzword for Millennials in the West. Is CSR as important for the company in the East as it is in the West?

The Coca-Cola Company has both global and local CSR initiatives. For example, our global 5by20 initiative is supporting the economic empowerment of five million women entrepreneurs across our company’s value chain by 2020. I believe the bigger the proportion of Generation Y (and later Z) will get in the workplaces, the more the companies will run corporate reputation programs. Generation Y has expressed expectations about a workplace, like working with state-of-the-art technology, reporting to a manager they respect, and whom they can learn from, or a workplace that will support a healthy work-life balance.

Beside the global partnership between Coca-Cola and the International Federation of Red Cross, we also sustain an extensive cooperation with the humanitarian organization locally. We support their blood donation activity with our products - as rehydration - and at Christmas time, volunteers of the Hungarian Red Cross join our Xmas Truck Tour to collect  donations. We also take part in WWF's Living Danube project, together with our bottling partner, Hellenic Bottler Company, to restore vital wetlands and floodplains along the Danube.

In what ways do Generation Z (teenagers who were born after 2000) differ from Millennials? What are the most typical trends, and how does Coca-Cola use these trends in their campaigns?

Generation Z believes life is about them.  An Italian boy told us in a research: “I want a life in which I am the protagonist. I do not want a boring life.” This is a huge opportunity for marketers to come out with personalized content that will support their attempt to be happy. Our "Share a Coke" campaign in 2013 provided teens with the opportunity of having their own personalized Coke label, and so they were able to "self-brand" themselves - with the help of Coke. In 2014, we put song lyrics on our packaging, so teens could express their feelings and communicate with each other via the words of music. In 2015, we opened a pop-up store with Coke-branded accessories and clothes to equip teens with the cool staff they could share with others. All these campaigns had one common element: they helped teens create personal and worthy stories they could share with each other, and in real time.

Coca-Cola pop-up store in Bucharest, Romania

Another significant characteristic is that members of Generation Z have been born in the smallest families ever, being raised by the oldest mothers of history. This has implications in the kind of offerings we have for current and future households in terms of portfolio, pack-size, format and special offers for their most typical occasions of consumption. Besides home consumption, Generation Z will soon start spending their money at Horeca. We will need to get ready to provide offers and sources of entertainment to fulfill their unique socializing needs in the upcoming years.

The most important is to be equipped with the right capabilities to understand Generation Y and Z, so we do not only follow them but become one of them.

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