Javier Meza, global CMO of the core Coke brands at The Coca-Cola company, joined the NYUSPS student-run Integrated Marketing Association to share his thoughts on the short- and long-term future of marketing. Meza addressed the community as his colleagues at The Coca-Cola Company were working through the company’s response to the global pandemic, and shared with us important insights about dealing with the crisis and broader reflection on the short- and long-term future of marketing. He also had some inspiring and practical advice about the skill sets and mindsets students need to develop to be successful in their marketing careers. Taken together, despite the growing crisis and impact of the spreading virus, Meza left students with a positive outlook for a challenging time.
In conversation with Michael Diamond, academic director for the Integrated Marketing and Communications Department, Meza focused his comments on what businesses should be doing right now to deal with the crisis; how to think about ongoing positioning and advertising in the marketplace, and how to plan for the future. Coca-Cola’s response maps to the general insights about how the virus might spread, and how communities will respond: first ‘Help’ and do more than we say, then ‘Reassure’ with a focus on today, and finally ‘Inspire’ with a focus on future possibilities.
Health and security are the next wave for consumers
Businesses and marketers need to emphasize the efforts that their brands are making to ensure consumer health and security with their products and services. Now, more than ever before, brands need to illustrate that they can be trusted not only in the performance and quality of their offerings, but also in how the consumer’s safety and wellbeing is guaranteed. Increasing transparency about a company’s activities helps build confidence that the brand is focused on health and security. Businesses should pull the curtains back and show their efforts in keeping their consumers and employees safe. For Coca-Cola, its priorities have been to protect employee health and well-being, ensure product safety availability, and support its communities.
Adjust your value proposition accordingly
Do not necessarily keep your brand’s value proposition static. It could be a mistake that hinders your brand’s future. With today’s rapid changes due to the impact of Covid-19, brands must assess how well their value proposition still applies. This requires careful market observation and a reality check on how the brand fits, and it may require some re-positioning of the value proposition to reflect the shifts in attitudes and behaviors from your target audience. It does not mean changing your value proposition to be the flavor of the week. Instead, find dynamic elements in the value proposition to make adjustments that make sense for the consumer. Meza explained how Coca- Cola went back to the roots of its brand to identify the many ways in which the brand “lifts the human spirit” and shared elements of the brand’s history, amplified in its advertising – ideas of ‘authenticity’ (“it’s the real thing”), ‘inclusiveness’ (“like to buy the world a Coke”), and “positivity.”
Attack a complex crisis with multiple scenarios
When your brand or business is facing a crisis as complex as Covid-19, there is no playbook to rely on. Instead, brands need to develop solutions by examining multiple potential scenarios and outcomes. Recognizing that attitudes and behaviors are changing rapidly, brands need to brainstorm ‘what-if’ scenarios that incorporate a range of different ways that a consumer might behave and respond, and draft a range of solutions. The key is to utilize multiple divergent perspectives within the multiple scenarios. Adaptability and flexibility gained from examining different points of view drive a better process. This in turn, will enhance the quality of the potential outcomes outlined, and provide hedges for the feasible solutions developed.
For emerging young professionals, like our graduate students in Integrated Marketing and Public Relations, Meza identified both the habits of mind and the daily practices that can help build a successful career, even in these challenging times.
Be strong and develop a protagonist mindset.
For anyone right now, strength and resilience are critical. Meza eloquently distilled his perspective on what it means to be strong—highlighting the combination of four key elements. The first is talent. Each of us has a talent that is what got us into our current roles. The second is knowledge. We all have a significant level of education and insights about what we do. However, we must continue to learn and expanding our understanding. The third is experience. Our experiences are often hard-earned and require investment – where we work, the jobs we do, and these should be curated and purposeful. Lastly, there’s attitude. Our attitudes determine how we approach challenges and overcome them. As an individual continues to maintain and invest in each of these elements, they are working on building their strength and making it more evident. Meza also walked through his perspective on what it takes to develop “a protagonist mindset”—an orientation that combines optimism and creativity and is vital in these times of crisis. The protagonist mindset will lead to better expectations about the future, and these expectations will lead to actions. The actions will lead to results.
Be open to new sources of information
Do not just rely on the sources you have at hand. Go beyond them. Listen to differing opinions and understand what new perspectives they bring to your thinking. By relying on the same sources of information, an individual limits their perspective. When faced with a difficult circumstance, the individual who is open-minded will be better prepared to solve future issues might not be suited to solve it due to their lack of additional information.
David Viteri graduated from the MS Integrated Marketing program in 2020 and was president of the student-run Integrated Marketing Association.
View the full presentation to the Integrated Marketing and Communications community on April 23, 2020 at https://bit.ly/JavierMezaNYU