A few months ago, we sat in Atlanta, sipping a Coke Zero with the people who oversee Coca-Cola’s global marketing. The team had asked us to help them reflect on ways to accelerate Coke’s growth.
In the mid-2000s, they made the bold decision to become a “beacon of happiness” in a world that seriously needed more optimism. It catapulted the business back into growth after a decade of slump. After years of “Always Coca-Cola” ads celebrating its own grandeur, Coke was offering a point of view – people followed. The question now was, how to go further?
Our answer was to shun Coke’s offices, and invite the team to the Atlanta fire station behind which Martin Luther King played as a child, and which would become the first desegregated fire station in Atlanta. We lined the room walls with giant portraits of Harvey Milk, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, and offered a simple idea.
Activists, we said, have much to teach marketers. In particular, they do three things that offer brands a straight path to one of today’s business holy grails, the merger of sustainability and marketing.
1. Activists pick a fight.
2. Activists get famous.
3. Activists live the battle.