Open dialogue, open happiness

Many companies are reluctant to embrace existing user-generated content for fear that the messages disseminated won’t reflect their brand personality appropriately, or may imply negatives things about their product and/or service. Brand giant Coca-Cola encountered this problem in 2006 when a pair of consumers introduced the infamous Mentos and Diet Coke video.

Comments ranged from “this just makes me want to go to a store and make a mega mentos+coke bomb” to “no wonder there wasting it ITS DIET COKE EWWWWWWWWWWWWWW.” As a result, Coke’s reaction to the video was less than favorable. They worried that the ingredients of Diet Coke, specifically aspartame, would come under question as consumers wondered what type of ingredient could fuel this reaction. Coke went on to create a YouTube-like cite called the Coke Show to draw traffic away from the video and ultimately create a more controlled conversation. However, the user-challenge based site failed to garner many submissions, and instead created backlash among consumer groups who saw the motive behind Coke’s new site (Morrissey).

Based on consumers’ reaction, Coke decided to take a different policy moving forward, “The biggest takeaway [from the Diet Coke-Mentos video] was consumers own our brands,” said Carol Kruse, VP of global interactive marketing at Coke. “We had absolutely nothing to do with it, but we were the beneficiaries. [We] needed to embrace that.” (Morrissey)

Coke went on to delve into a consumer controlled Facebook page, online contests and blog with the hope of engaging consumers on a more organic level and creating increased loyalty. Their strategy is simple: put fans first. Coke continues to prove their loyalty to this philosophy by doing things many other brands shy away from.  For example, their Facebook page not only is controlled by two super-fans in conjunction with Coke VP’s, but also displays user created content in their main Facebook Wall feed by default (even critical comments), allows fans to upload their own content their various social media sites and incorporates employee photos, Coke products from around the world and pictures of old Coke nostalgia (Baron).

The result is over 14 million engaged fans on Facebook alone, and a new image for Coke. A big brand went grassroots and empowered millions of brand ambassadors to speak in their name.  This has continued to increase Coke’s brand equity around the globe, as well as further distance the brand from competitors.

Baron, Lisa. 2009. What Coke Knows About Social Media That You Don’t. Outspoken Media. Retrieved from

Morrissey, Brian. 2008. Coca-Cola Hunts for Social-Net Formula. ADWEEK. Retrieved from

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