Transforming a toxic brand

January 31, 2014 | Benoit Beaufils
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How can you transform a toxic brand into one that is loved even more than before?

In 1999, Belgian school children became sick after consuming Coca-Cola, resulting in 30 million cans and bottles being recalled. Marketing manager at the time, Benoit Beaufils, recalls how ‘people’ saved them.

“The challenge was to prepare for the time where Coke would be back. And to make sure people would welcome it, after it had betrayed them. We needed to think differently, so we brought in new people. Christophe Fauconnier from Censydiam was one of them. With a few others, he offered a different approach to marketing. We used cultural analysis, anthropology and psychology to understand how Belgians related to Coke.
For the first time in my life, I really understood what a brand was. I met people who would drive 200km to go and buy some Coke across the French border for their families. I heard them speak about Coke not as a drink but as something that made time spent with the kids, or time spent with friends, just that little bit better. People loved the brand because it was part of rituals and moments that truly made them happy.
I had learned this: marketing is a people thing. If you forget that your business thrives ‘people to people’, sooner or later, it will crumble.”

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Benoit Beaufils

Change and intuitive human understanding have been at the core of Benoit’s life. Twelve years of marketing experience at both Procter & Gamble and Coca-Cola have prepared him well. Managing the marketing work of Coca-Cola in Belgium and Thailand in periods of deep crises gave him a unique insight into how brands can be shaped to best overcome cultural anxieties. Working as a consultant and researcher across Asia and Europe has given him further opportunities to facilitate change and engagement processes within companies and between companies and consumers. Benoit finds sources of inspiration living in a 100-inhabitant dust road serviced village on an Asian island and raising four children.