December 1, 2022

Combatting a Movement: Why #shareacoke worked so well.

When health-kicks hurt your brand, where do you turn? Here is what we can learn from Coke’s plan of action.

In the early 2010s, Coca-Cola had a problem. Big Soda was on its way out, Coke included.

The late 2000s to early 2010s ushered in a quickly growing health kick thanks to celebrity influence, a pinch of politics, and, of course, the internet. Examples of this…

1) Successful actor turned lifestyle innovator Gwyneth Paltrow released her health newsletter “GOOP” in 2008, promoting healthy recipes for banana bread and often eyebrow-raising rules for a healthy body. (My take on this coming soon…stay tuned.)

2) Fad diets such as Keto, Whole30, and Paleo were on the rise, with their recipes relentlessly flooding our Pinterest homepages.

3) Big Soda was facing a sharp decline. Adults and young people were turning their backs on traditional sodas and sugary drinks for “healthier” options such as kombucha, teas, and sparkling water, or more artisanal options such as craft beers and craft cocktails.

The percentage of adults who would drink a sugary beverage (i.e., soda) on any given day dropped by 79.7% from 2003 to 2014. This decline was a flashing red light for Coke to take action to save their ship.

Enter stage left: Ogilvy and Mather Australia

In their own words: “Ogilvy is an award-winning creative company that inspires brands and people to impact the world.” Coca-Cola turned to this advertising partner to combat the decline of soda consumption.

The Australian ad team faced two objectives to solve:

1) Increase Coke sales during the summer period in Australia to test the campaign

2) Increase brand retention by engaging customers 

So, how did O&M go about solving this?


If you have been to a grocery store, gas station, or airport vending machine in the last ten years, you are more than likely aware of this campaign, if not one of the hundreds of thousands of consumers who took part in it directly. What could O&M have done to have such a simple campaign take off so successfully?

Operation #shareacoke – The Steps to Virality

1) Multichannel Rollouts

Holistic Marketing was a critical factor in the campaign taking off and remaining successful for years. O&M plastered the campaign across newspapers, billboards, city buses, and much more. Of course, social media was where #shareacoke found much of its momentum as consumers shared their names on marketing pieces across social media – Facebook especially.

2) Connecting Audience with Brand and Each Other

People follow people. It is natural. We all crave connection; therefore, we tend to copy one another to create organic trends. This was the goal of #shareacoke, and the public adopted it without challenge.

3) Listen to Learn and Evolve

#shareacoke remained a success mainly because the campaign was continually updated to keep the audience involved, keep up with internet trends, and keep consumers entertained. One example was creating an interactive billboard where audience members could text their name or a friend’s name to an SMS number to see it on a billboard. It was fun, exciting, and kept retention growing.

What we can learn from #shareacoke

There are a few lessons to be learned from this viral campaign that increased Facebook traffic by 870% and sold a total of 378,000 custom coke cans (that’s over 4.5 million ounces of soda!).

Lesson 1) ROI isn’t always measured by sales.

Sales numbers are always hugely important. But what good is one sale if the customer never returns? Remember to prioritize a balance of sales and retention to keep the numbers growing.

Lesson 2) Social media is great, but don’t forget the classics.

Social media can be a brand’s best friend, but it can also be tempting to forget everything else our audiences interact with on a daily basis. Billboards, print ads, audio, and more are major outlets that helped #shareacoke grow.

Lesson 3) Keep it simple. Really simple.

It all started with the easiest CTA possible. There were no catchy rhymes, gitchy jingles, or gimmicky features. All the audience was asked to do was share a coke. Keep it simple, and watch your interactions soar.

So, take that, Gwyneth Paltrow! Soda remains, no matter what form of liquid sugar we may prefer. 



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