A few days ago I was attending a marketing conference heldby Il Sole 24 Ore (the leading financial newspaper in Italy) with contributions from a wide range of marketers, including a top exec from Coca Cola Italy.
He started his speech saying that Coca Cola is not in the business of selling soft drink, but … (right then I started to smell BS coming)…rather in holding I don’t remember how many millions of relationships a day all over the world, and it’s been like that for a few year’s already.
There it is, one of the new marketing mantras: we don’t sell products, we sell experiences, we hold relationships, we provide solutions, we allow interactions, happiness, self-fulfillment, peace and love…
Now, for marketing’s sake (if there’s such a thing), I think that Coca-Cola Inc. doesn’t really believe any of that crap, but that’s a statement that can produce devastating mistakes, if anyone within the company should ever take it seriously.
The proof that Coca Cola is in the business of selling drinks and not holding relationships? Try to repeat the ’80s New Coke experiment replacing the Classic Coca Cola recipe with a new one, then market it along the very same relationships you currently have: I expect sales to drop. Big time.
Try shutting down the soft drink factories, and start selling Coca Cola-branded peanut butter, again leveraging on the very same millions of relationships across the world: would you ever?
Now, of course, as any other marketer, by selling its product Coca Cola is holding relationships with its customers; and given the frequency of use of the product and the behaviour and expectations of a large part of its consumers, relationships are a critical assett for Coca Cola, and one that is getting more and more important.
But if you think that’s what you sell, I wouldn’t bet a Euro on you! Not even one of today’s weak dollars.
On the other hand, there’s companies that are not in the business of selling their product: take Virgin, it was not in the business of selling music. Virgin’s business model is about selling irreverence and subverting rules in established, formal, static markets. That’s why after music it’s been succeeding in fields as diverse as financial services, mobile, train, air transport. (And by the way that’s why it failed in soft drinks).
Final Burp: Marketers should listen to children more often, and learn from their common sense.