Coca-Cola Focuses Lens on Innovative, Lower-Budget B2B Content Play

Coca-Cola Focuses Lens on Innovative, Lower-Budget B2B Content Play

When is your audience NOT your end customer?

If you’re a B2B marketer, you know the answer.

Your job requires engaging and winning over distributors, resellers, retail outlets, brokers, and even influencers who promote and sell your products and services. It’s a core focus of great content marketing.

This month, one of the biggest brands in the world showed why that continues to be true.

Coca-Cola launched a new B2B content platform and newsletter called Coca-Cola Lens. It provides industry trends, data-backed insights, and other thought leadership to its network of current and prospective retailers, food service outlets, and other sellers of their beverage brands.

Why would a big brand like Coca-Cola launch a B2B content platform? What does it really mean?

We went to Robert Rose, CMI’s chief strategy advisor, for his take. Watch the video or read on. (Quick note: Robert has a newsletter called Lens. He isn’t saying Coca-Cola stole the name, but he’s not saying they didn’t either.)

Looking at Coca-Cola Lens

Coca-Cola fittingly announced its new content marketing platform at the National Restaurant Association Show. Coca-Cola Lens isn’t for consumers; it’s for the retailers and restaurant partners who sell Coca-Cola products in their establishments. It’s a great example of using content marketing to differentiate your brand for a specific audience.

Coca-Cola Lens features a library of thought leadership articles that examine shopper behavior and provide the economic context to help restaurants and retailers become better business managers.

It also publishes original and proprietary research, third-party resources, and news on topics such as multicultural consumers and the growth of products like premium water. And it provides tips on managing inventory and optimizing other elements of business.

Clearly, Coca-Cola designed the initiative to establish deeper levels of trust and give retailers and restaurants yet another reason to align with the global beverage brand.

3 things to notice

If you think I’m pitching Coca-Cola, I’m not. I haven’t spoken to anyone at the company, but I’m excited by a few ideas seemingly evident in this launch.

First, Coca-Cola, one of the more sophisticated marketers on the planet, made its B2B-enablement strategy a visible and notable piece of its brand and marketing approach. It publicized the site launch with a press release and a session at the National Restaurant Association Show. It’s not just some private project.  

Second, with only 16 articles at launch and a basic site design, Coca-Cola doesn’t seem to break into anyone’s piggy bank to do it. The budget for this was likely the equivalent of a rounding error on the rounding error of the overall marketing budget.  

People can subscribe to the content via email, so Coca-Cola seems intent on doing this long-term. And making it public indicates that they not only want existing customers to think they’re a good partner but also want to develop relationships with prospective retailers and restaurants.  In fact, the subscription form includes calls to action for non-customers, indicating an awareness-building strategy for the platform. 

Finally, I may be a bit overexcited about Coca-Cola Lens because it demonstrates an eagerness for new content marketing platforms. Even well-established brands can see value in doing something innovative that is small in scope but mighty in ambition.

In recent months, I’ve seen a decline in these kinds of experiments in small- to medium-sized campaigns. Brands frustrated with organic search efforts are not nurturing their blogs, resource centers, social strategies, and thought leadership programs as they might. Ideas for new content platforms get shot down because they aren’t big enough to make a dent or are too big and risky to execute. Given the availability of AI and paid ads, why bother with a hard and long-term initiative like an organic content marketing platform?

Whether Coca-Cola Lens succeeds remains to be seen. But that’s OK.

Coca-Cola didn’t over complicate it. They didn’t make it so huge that they would take a big risk if their restaurant and retail customers didn’t find it valuable. However, they also didn’t short-shrift the site and make it a landing page for the trade show presentation.

Be flexible and right-sized

As I’ve said many times, with today’s marketing technology and processes, launching a new content marketing platform like this one should be easy, quick, and right-sized.

I recently talked with a global technology company that failed to get buy-in for a thought leadership program. The rejection came because integrating it into their enterprise content management and marketing automation systems would skyrocket the cost to seven figures and eight months of technical development. Of course, it wasn’t worth that level of risk.

Your owned media platforms should be as flexible to deploy as anything else you want to do. The timeline should be mentioned in days, weeks, and maybe months, not quarters or years.

Yes, Coca-Cola may find the usefulness of Coca-Cola Lens limited to a few months, a few quarters, or many years. But by doing the interesting thing, they’ve demonstrated that even as big as they are, Coca-Cola is open to doing new things without guaranteed success.

When Joe Pulizzi and I wrote Killing Marketing, we made the premise about launching content platforms that could provide so much value as to become a profitable aspect of the business.  We opened with a quote attributed to Mark Twain (though he probably never said it):

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

That’s why I like Coca-Cola’s launch so much. If Lens works, it will probably surprise them just as much as the rest of us. They don’t know what will happen, and honestly, that’s a more exciting way to work on marketing.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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