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    Breaking down Coca-Cola’s marketing spell book as Real Magic turns one

    Coca-Cola trademark president Selman Careaga and head of global creative strategy and content Pratik Thakar share a behind-the-scenes look at how they activated this massive global platform.

    Picture this. You’re one of the world’s most iconic brands coming off of a large-scale reorganization, sluggish sales and a spate of underwhelming ad campaigns. With all the world watching, you unleash your first new global platform since 2016. You promise to be more Gen Z-focused, more agile, more creative. No pressure. Right?

    This was the scenario for Coca-Cola’s ‘Real Magic,’ which launched last September. Flash forward a year later and the beverage giant has shown clear indications that this platform may have the bones to be the sturdy brand foundation it has been looking for.

    Whether or not ‘Real Magic’ proves prophetic for long-term growth, it is an interesting exercise in global brand building. For our Globalization Deep Dive, The Drum caught up with Selman Careaga, Coca-Cola’s trademark president, and Pratik Thakar, its head of global creative strategy and content, about the blueprint for how the cola giant is working to win across the world. Let’s simplify:

    1. ’Real Magic’ is viewed as a philosophy versus a tagline. This gives local markets freedom to play with the idea versus just having a catchy piece of copywriting.

    2. Coca-Cola identified meals and breaks as opportunities to leverage. If there’s anything brand marketers have learned, it is that you can’t be all things to all people all of the time, so it selected these two occasions.

    3. Music, gaming and sports are the brand’s consumer passion plays. Knowing it needed to get Gen Z’s attention, these are the three core pillars.

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    Bringing the spell book to life

    Now that Coca-Cola had its global pillars, how did it plan to execute? Again, the biggest principle is that ‘Real Magic’ be viewed as a global umbrella with local flexibility. Underneath this umbrella there are three major initiatives:

    1. Coke Creations. This global innovations platform was created to lend the Coke trademark to “new expressions, driven by collaboration, creativity and cultural connections,” per the company. The end result was four limited-time-only products that featured tech and talent tie-ins. First was Coca-Cola Starlight, which tasted like outer space and featured a partnership with Ava Max. Then there was Coca-Cola Byte, a collaborative product with the EDM artist Marshmello, and most recently Coca-Cola Dreamworld, which tastes like dreams. The new products and activations received twice the engagement of any other program, per Careaga.

    2. Coke Studios. Born in Pakistan in 2008, the Coke Studios endeavor mashes up different cultures by bringing emerging artists together to create something unique. Created in partnership with Universal Music Group, artists including Grammy-nominated American artist Ari Lennox, British singer-songwriter Griff and K-pop girl band Tri.be.

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    3. Made for Weekends. Tapping into the insight that more people were eating at home, Coca-Cola partnered 20 different delivery partners in 30 countries (including DoorDash, Rappi and Uber Eats) to offer specials. This resulted in 3.5-times the amount of combo orders sold globally, per the company.

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    ‘You can’t order ideas from an agency like a pizza’

    One of the key components, for all of these initiatives, was building from the inside out. The initial ’Real Magic’ concept was developed by 10 people from around the Coca-Cola global system. Diverse in gender, location and role, they were tasked with coming up with the core of the platform. Call them marketing superheroes, they have since been dubbed ’The Eternals’ within the Coke system.

    As a brand, says Thakar: “You have to create it yourself. You can’t order it from an agency like a pizza and it gets delivered to you. If you have it inside, the agency respects you more.”

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    The biggest challenge for the creative teams internally and Coke’s agency partners? There is a “supply chain of creativity” that can’t be immediately activated, says Careaga. “You can do a really cool social post tomorrow, but if Pratik comes up with a Christmas campaign idea for this year, it’s not going to happen.” He says the company has learned to better leverage its global scale, its packaging, its salesforce and its marketing muscle – but it simply requires more planning to execute.  

    Given the need to plan, its ’Real Magic’ efforts for this year and next are well underway. Coke has big designs for its Fifa partnership, as well as for the Lunar New Year and, of course, Christmas. Last but not least, Coca-Cola will remain committed to web3 with even more collectible assets for Digital Friendship Day and other key cultural moments. All told, Thakar says, “there’s tons of stuff cooking” in the Coke cauldron.

     

    For more on what marketers and their partners need to do to succeed on a global level, check out The Drum’s Globalization Deep Dive.

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