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Coke's Found Its Happy Place
By: Kevin Weaver
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If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram should all be blushing over Coca-Cola's new Happy Places social network. Coke is creating a social network where users can create profiles, follow friends, and post their "happy places" through words or images. The free iOS mobile app was released on Nov. 1. Earlier models have already been created for Android and Blackberry devices and while the domain name was registered back in June, happyplaces.com is still not active.
It shouldn't be big news for a company to be utilizing social media, but for a company, let alone a soft-drink company, to create its own social network is worth noting. Although Instagram and Flickr have the market pretty well cornered on photo-sharing, most people believe that the soft-drink juggernaut will have no problem using its superior marketing and brand power to reach users all over the world. But how has a company whose products are anything but necessities been able to capture such a loyal following and remain one of the most well known and profitable brands year after year? Two ways: consistent advertising and understanding what their customers want.
Happiness has been the flagship of Coca-Cola's advertising campaigns since 1886. Campaigns include "Have a Coke and Smile," "I'd like to buy the world a Coke," and "Coca-Cola. Enjoy."  Happy Places seems like the logical next step for this company. This consistency helps Coke avoid alienating consumers, which is what their competitor, Dr. Pepper, ran into with Dr. Pepper 10. The drink is "not for women," the ad says, and the company has received plenty of criticism, claiming that the campaign reeks of sexism.
People don't want to feel left out or pushed away; they want to feel happy or have a sense of belonging. Coke gets that and they've been capitalizing on it for decades. When someone sees a Coke bottle, it puts a smile on their face, it makes them happy, or it makes them nostalgic. Coke isn't selling the carbonated beverage on the inside, they are selling how that drink makes someone feel.  Happy Places, if it is successful, will be able to attach the Coke brand to peoples' most precious memories through imagery and text. Coke's key to success is not focusing on the product but instead on the buyer. Is it fair to say that Coca-Cola is a wildly successful advertising company that just so happens to sell soft drinks? Probably not, but it doesn't matter as long as they keep doing their thing.


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About the Author
Kevin Weaver is a marketing professional in Wichita, KS with two years of experience. Past and present work includes email marketing compaigns, client e-store development, social media, and destination marketing.
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