New Aussie tech powers famous Coke campaign

The world-famous ‘Share a Coke’ campaign, has chosen new, pioneering Australian technology to power their latest campaign.

From humble beginnings in Australia, the ‘Share a Coke’ personalization campaign has taken the world by storm since first launching in 2011.

The campaign’s premise is simple, yet complex to execute. Customers are encouraged to purchase customized bottles of the product and encouraged to share them with friends or family. This year, Coca-Cola released 200 names to the range which include popular Australian slang such as ‘Little Ripper’, Deano, Shazza, champ, legend, and more. Over the years, the ‘Share a Coke’ campaign has become so successful, it’s now run annually in over 80 different countries around the world.

What’s less known by the public is how the campaign has evolved over the years. It started with simple product customization before incorporating personalization as the years rolled on.

A web of complex technology supports the machine and makes everything possible underneath. Technological advancements and COVID-era pressure have moved much of the original offline operations into the cloud.

This move into the cloud presented a raft of new technical problems which needed to be solved for this year’s campaign. The team at Coca-Cola South Pacific (CCSP) was searching for solutions in late 2020 when Spiff3D released their newest cloud technology.

The Melbourne tech startup, which specializes in mass customization software, was successful in a bid to power part of the complex product fulfillment side of the Australian 2020/21 Summer campaign.

Coca-Cola allows customers to design and order personalized bottles of Coke via a Direct to Consumer (DTC) website. But, all eCommerce systems are, by default, designed around selling standardized products at scale. So in the back-end, a complex, highly-automated process needed to run smoothly underneath to print and deliver these personalized products directly to each customer.

The solution Coca-Cola chose was Spiff3D’s new headless public API. This choice is symptomatic of a growing trend within the tech industry as more and more software companies are deciding to separate their back and front-end systems for increased flexibility. By choosing headless technology, Coca-Cola could leverage the powerful back-end of Spiff3D’s system without having to rework their existing, font-end website infrastructure.

“Coca-Cola has one of the most savvy marketing departments in the world. They would not keep a campaign going for 9 years if there wasn’t a strong business case supporting it”, says growth advisor John James.

Product customization has been a popular topic of discussion over the years, but many retailers have faced practical challenges with implementation. Production and fulfillment execution have been two areas that have prevented widespread adoption. The required technical nous and expense has discouraged many smaller businesses from pursuing and reaping the financial benefits from customization campaigns.

But, Spiff3D’s new technology has slashed the cost and complexity. CEO, Shadi Taleb explains exactly how his technology created value for his client. “The problem we had to solve was reducing the high cost of fulfillment and long turnaround times. Previous to our rollout, lots of manual processes needed to occur when creating the files and preparing them for print. They [Coca-Cola] had very specific requirements regarding job batching, appended barcodes, and external order IDs which needed to be added to these print files. In a joint project with the fulfiller, we presented a solution that could solve both problems. To our knowledge, we are the only customization tech company in the world that has cloud customization technology that can deal with spot colors, ICC profiles, custom fonts, and dye lines. The cost and time savings from our technology means brands can now see product customization not just as a branding exercise, but as a profitable sales exercise too.”

Jack Colvin, Managing Director of custom beverage fulfillment company Brewtopia explains how Spiff3D technology has transformed his operation. “We needed to automate more of the process to reduce costs. The whole process is now highly automated. From the time the order is placed through to the package being loaded onto the truck for dispatch. Spiff has helped remove 99% of the prepress and fulfillment preparation process that we previously needed to do.”

While this mass customization technology has been readily available to all brands for years, orthodox mentalities within the business world persist. The economic transition from the era of mass production to personalization has taken over 100 years, but traditional thinking around standardized production and distribution models remain dominant.

To understand why a step back into history provides the answer. The mass production era was popularized by Henry Ford around 1910 and led to the ‘production concept’ mentality. The ‘product concept’ mentality followed from the 1930’s onward as new products flooded the marketplace and retailers were forced to focus on product features and/or quality to compete.

By the 1960s, the ‘selling concept’ became dominant. Needs were created via aggressive promotional activity. Since the 1990’s the online retail market has become globalized, flooding all markets with choices unbound by geographic location, further increasing competitive pressure on brands.

“Personalised experience will be a huge trend over the next few years – both for traditional retailers embracing the flexibility of digital, and online retailers capturing the personalized in-store experience,” says Top 50 CMO, e-commerce expert, Mark Baartse.

Peter Roberts, from @AUmanufacturing

Peter Roberts, editor of @AuManufacturing explains how retailers sometimes aren’t aware that they can successfully target markets of one. Producing products that create unique value for each customer through customization and personalization instead of creating standardized value via mass production is already possible. “Too many Australian manufacturers look at competitiveness as being reflected by price achieved through mass production. Much of that is done elsewhere – what we need to do is compete on value delivered to meet individual customer needs,” says Peter Roberts.

Gary Mortimer

Professor Gary Mortimer gives an academic context to the power of customized production. “Attachment theory explains why consumers desire personalized products. Like human relationships, sometimes consumers form an emotional bond with a brand. Once a strong bond is formed, consumers will become loyal and engage in positive “word-of-mouth” promotion.”

“To increase this bond, brands need to get personal, and that personalisation needs to be relevant. Within a consumers’ brain lays their reticular activating system. This filters out irrelevant information, enabling consumers to attend to only important information. Imagine being at a noisy party, with many conversations. It’s all white noise, until someone mentions a topic that is of particular interest to you. You then tune in, thanks to this part of your brain. So brands use your name. Whether you see it or hear it, your name, is one of the easiest sounds for your reticular activating system to hone in on. A product with your name on it creates attachment, and then brands have you for life.”

“Conspicuous consumption is another theory that plays a role” says Mr Mortimer. “It explains the practice by consumers of using goods of a higher quality, price or brand to infer their position in society. You are what you wear. American economist and sociologist, Thorstein Veblen, coined the term in his book The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899).”

“The concept of conspicuous consumption can be illustrated by considering the motivation to drive a luxury car rather than an economy car. Any make of car provides transport to a destination, but the use of a luxury car additionally draws attention to the apparent affluence of the driver. So, that ‘personalised’ product actual conveys something about you are as a person.”

Spiff3D CEO Shadi Taleb with his own personalized bottles of Coke

Trial This Technology Now

Have a go at personalizing your own bottles of Coca-Cola right now in your internet browser.

Or create your own customized brand of beer, wine, cider, gin, liqueurs or water in 3D via the Brewtopia website.

Or read the fascinating story of the original Share a Coke campaign from 2011.

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Josh Shampo

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