Consumers say, “Catch us if you can”. Coke and Pepsi give chase.

I really appreciated the fantastic feedback on this week’s post about The Death of Corporate Websites. Lo and behold, last night I spy a quote (thanks, Frank Reed) from Anne Carelli, Digital Marketing Manager for Coke saying:

“Several years ago, Coke realized that Coke.com is not their home page – it is Google.com, digg.com and YouTube. Take the time to keep abreast of what is showing up for your brand in these new social sites and search engines.”

What’s more New Media Age now tells us Coke will no longer be creating one-off-campaign-websites in favor of building out its existing social media presence on YouTube and Facebook.

If brand managers need evidence of the need to leap out of their corporate site nests, they need only look at Coke and Pepsi.

The Pepsi Refresh Project is crowdsourcing and funding ($20+ million) the best consumer ideas to positively transform communities and, ultimately, our world. It is doing so in replacement of a 23-year long run of Super Bowl advertising (a handy snapshot of the shift in consumer attention from traditional to social media and a big brand’s response). Now it hasn’t been without the inevitable snafus. This week faulty security settings comprised personal information of those submitting proposals. You only need to visit Pepsi’s Facebook Fan page to see the response. Yikes. No hugs going on there at that time.

Pepsi will undoubtedly recover and now Coke has wholeheartedly jumped into the social media frey shifting investment and attention from its corporate site to community (rather than corporate) hubs. Prinz Pinakatt, Coke’s interactive marketing manager for Europe explained why Coke has stopped building Coke-hosted pages for every campaign:

“We would like to place our activities and brands where people are, rather than dragging them to our platform.”

He went further:

“In some cases some of our campaigns won’t need a coke.com-hosted site. In most cases these will still exist as it’s the most obvious destination for a consumer, but it might only be a page linking to YouTube encouraging people to join the community there.”

So here we see two major brand – arch- rivals – in lock step in their shift towards social media with each choosing a different strategy. Pepsi is creating a brand-sponsored, stand-alone, community building hub, while Coke is leveraging the dynamics of pre-existing social hubs like YouTube and Facebook for the long term.

If nothing else this should convince brand managers of two key issues:

1. Follow consumers. They’re not looking for you any more, they’re looking for each other.

2. The most evolved brands already exploring various strategies within this new space. You need to join them.

Even if you don’t believe corporate website are completely dead, their are dramatic signs of life in the community space that brands cannot and should not ignore. To do anything else is like standing in the corner at a party either waiting for people to come over to you or yelling at them to do so. Quite lonely really. Especially when everyone else starts having fun together on the other side of the room..

This is not a bad time for brands. There has never been more opportunity, potential and uncharted waters than what exist in the social space today. Wade in – fast. You’ll even have a choice of sodas!

What do you think about Coke’s latest move and Pepsi’s snafu? How brave is your brand?

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