Does content marketing even have to link to your product anymore?

I’m sorry, but I have to call BS on this recent Contently post.

I’ve always been somewhat of a skeptic when it comes to Coca-Cola’s brand journalism initiative: Coke Journey, which launched back in 2012.

The big reason for my skepticism? Why would anyone visit the Coke web site for “news and information”–even if that “news and information” was related to Coke?

Coke

I get the brand journalism thing when you’re a company that’s built on thought leadership–GE and GE Reports comes to mind.

I get brand  journalism when you’re Microsoft and you’re using long-form employee stories as a vehicle to aid recruiting and brand.

I get brand journalism when you’re General Mills and you’re using stories as a way to drum up additional media coverage (as well as for the opportunity to tell your stories, your way).

I get all that–and those are fantastic case studies of brand journalism done well. And a decent amount of what Coke is doing with “Journey” does actually fall into those same categories. But, Coke as hub of news and information as outlined in this Contently piece? C’mon now.

So yeah, I’m skeptical.

Let’s take a look at a few key excerpts from the Contently post to find out why:

“For Journey Arabia, content inspiration comes largely from current events, since the target audience is looking for news. Journey Arabia uses social listening to stay in tune with public opinion on stories impacting the Arab world and connects them to product events and announcements.”

OK, I’m going to sound like the Ad Contrarian here for a few moments. “Content inspiration comes largely from currently events, since the target audience is looking for news.” This sounds a lot like: 1) A marketer who’s taking themselves way too seriously, or 2) A vendor who really thinks highly of themselves. Honestly, no one is looking to Coke for news. No one. People look to CNN, the New York Times and WaPo for news. People look to Coke when they want a cold soda. Pretty simple. Even if you make the argument that people want news and information about Coke, are people really seeking that information out? I just can’t believe that there are tens of thousands of people who are looking for Coke news and information each day.

“The bedrock stories are balanced by lighter fare, like a quick-hitter on how to take better Christmas photos, that performs well on social.”

This is exactly what I’m alluding to in the headline. What does “how to take a better Christmas photo” have to do with Coke? Nothing. So, why are they writing about it? Because it “performs well on social.” This is the part I don’t get. I understand those kinds of stories perform well on social. But, just because Coke gets 2.5M likes on a post that talks about how to take a great Christmas photo, does that mean more people are going to buy more Coke or think more highly of Coke? Color me skeptical.

“Moms and dads are the gatekeepers of the weekly shop. If we can give them more information that helps them make informed decisions, it will help them during their purchase.”

You gotta love this quote. Allow me to put my “Dad” hat on for a moment, because this speaks directly to me. I’m partly responsible for the health and well-being of my child. My wife and I buy the food that goes in our kids’ bodies. What information is Coke going to give me to help make a more “informed decision” on buying a product that has pretty much been proven to be poor to downright bad for your kids’ health? I mean, I enjoy a cold Coke every once in a while as much as the next person, but “make more informed decisions?” C’mon now. For proof on how Coke is addressing this, see the video below. Again, I actually like Coke (although we don’t offer it as an option in our home). And creating and publishing stories like this that talk about health and fitness are fantastic–just not if you’re a company that’s making a product that actually creates the opposite effect. Just seems very odd to me.

OK, your turn. Anyone else a skeptic of Coke Journey?

photo credit: coca cola soda cans via photopin (license)

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One comment on “Does content marketing even have to link to your product anymore?

  1. Chris says:

    I do get your point, but I’m going to lean towards we don’t have enough information. If Coke can directly link that social post, with geo-location on the likes or where those people live, and correlate a bump in sales to this area. It’s working. If they can track these people within their funnel from first interaction via social or the content into a purchasing decision then it’s worth it. It’s a numbers game and the more people they can get, and if their “closed won” percentage holds, the more sales they get. Coke wants the lifestyle brand tag, much like RedBull, so that’s what they’re going for. If it’s working or not, only Coke knows. Much like this post and getting people to comment, you’re filling your funnel but only you know if it works.