Q&A: Coke NWEN brand director Hilary Quinn
Hilary Quinn, Coca-Cola brand director for North West Europe and Nordics, defends its latest polar bear partnership campaign with WWF against criticisms from sceptics and explains how the activity will help inspire future pan-European sustainability marketing.
Marketing Week (MW): Coca-Cola claims its latest integrated campaign, in partnership with WWF to raise awareness about the plight of polar bears is the biggest pan-European activity of its kind - what do you mean by that?
Hilary Quinn (HQ): It’s the biggest campaign of this kind on this scale that we’ve done. We ran a similar campaign in North America in 2011. We looked at the success of that and thought how we could maximise it and do it on an even bigger scale in as many markets as possible. Now we are running in 16 markets in Europe, on 300 million packs, TV, radio, print, out of home, every store and every corner shop to make Arctic Home real and relevant to the everyday man on the street.
MW: How do you think this marketing campaign in Europe will make a difference to the situation in the Arctic?
HQ: Nobody wants to think of a world where polar bears no longer exist but that’s a real issue. The ice is melting and the bears are dying: we want to raise awareness of that issue.
We need to make that issue real and meaningful for the everyday man on the street by using the weight of our marketing investment to drive awareness in very relevant way.
We’ve used polar bears in our marketing since 1922 so, spontaneously, people are already aware about polar bears and Coca-Cola as there’s an obvious association between the two.
MW: You soft-launched the campaign earlier this week and while the social media reaction on the whole has been positive, there have been criticisms levelled at Coca-Cola for running such a campaign - with one Twitter user even suggesting Coca-Cola was “co-opting” polar bears to take attention away from less environmentally friendly behaviour elsewhere. How do you respond to such criticism?
HQ: We as an organisation are incredibly committed to protecting our planet. One element of that is climate change: we take it incredibly seriously and that’s why we have been a partner with the WWF for a number of years.
There are a series of programmes and initiatives we are putting in place - such as recycling and water conservation - to make sure we operate sustainably and it really is a core part of our business.
The objective of this campaign is to help protect the home of the polar bears and make sure they have a future. We believe Coke and WWF can make a much bigger impact by working together.
MW: But is there more that Coke needs to do to prevent such criticism when it launches sustainability initiatives?
HQ: There’s a lot we do as an organisation we can continue to communicate so consumers understand the investment and effort we put behind sustainability, which is so critical to our business. We started to do that at The Olympics last year with recycling and we will do more.
MW: Could this type of pan-European sustainability campaign become more of a regular thing?
HQ: Absolutely, this specific programme is an ongoing programme and we are already working on 2014 and 2015.
There’s an opportunity to take the wealth of activity we are doing here around sustainability and make it meaningful for consumers with our marketing and expertise. Consumers realise we all have to take action, we all have responsibility, and we can make that relevant and engaging through the activity we do.
MW: Coca-Cola’s revenues fell quarter on quarter and the macroeconomic situation in the region continues to look bleak. What changes are you making in your marketing strategy to address this?
HQ: Organisationally the set up hasn’t changed. In terms of media investment we continue to increase our media investment around digital as we reflect the way consumers are using different media like Facebook and Twitter with out investment model. Our investment is continuing to increase in marketing overall.
MW: Last year Coca-Cola’s global innovation director Anthony Newstead told Marketing Week the company was bidding to be less ‘secretive’. Are there examples of this happening on a European level, both internally and externally?
HQ: The days of thinking Coca-Cola has walls around it is over. I don’t think consumers think that any more because things like Facebook and Twitter let you interact live with consumers.
Future Flames was a very real example of connecting with people at a grass roots level and we do a number of things across markets and at local level with young people.