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Why Coke Is Adding Last Names to 'Share a Coke'

Coke has been trying to get on a first-name basis with consumers since launching its “Share a Coke” packaging play in the U.S. in 2014. Starting this summer, the brand will get even more personal by adding last names to the mix.

Last names and first names will not appear on the same bottles, however, because that would probably be a little bit too targeted. So some labels will include surnames like Johnson, Smith or Lopez, while others will carry monikers like Chris, Sarah or Matt. “Last names give us an opportunity to invite more people into the campaign,” Coca-Cola Brand Director Evan Holod said. “It’s just a great way to up the reach.”

The brand is also banking on connecting with consumers at events like family reunions and weddings, he added. While the names will appear at random in retail, people can make personalized orders at ShareaCoke.com. The program will run from May through July.

The marketer worked with an information analytics firm to identify 200 popular last names that account for roughly one-quarter of the population of people in the U.S. who are between the ages of 13-to-34. The brand’s roster of first names now includes more than 800 options.

Coke first launched “Share a Coke” in Australia in 2011. It came to the U.S. in 2014 and proved to be a hit, helping the brand grow sales volume that year for the first time since 2000. Coke began in 2014 with the 250 most popular names among teens and millennials. This year, the larger number of first names will cover more than 77% of the general population in the U.S. of people ages 13-to-34, according to the brand.

Coca-Cola's Summer 2017 campaign
Coca-Cola’s Summer 2017 campaign Credit: Coca-Cola

The popularity of the tactic proves that simple marketing ideas are often the best ideas. By stamping first names on packages, Coke is feeding into a thirst for personalization and customization. There is vanity appeal, for sure, because apparently consumers like to see their own name anywhere, even on a soda bottle. But people don’t just seek out their own names, they look for names of friends and family members, too, Mr. Holod said.

Like anything, the trick is to keep the program fresh, and Coke has experimented with different concepts over the years. Last summer, for instance, Coke put song lyrics on cans — like Queen’s “We are the Champions” — and marketeted it as “Share a Coke and a Song.”

This year Coke is rebranding the program to “Share an Ice Cold Coke” in an attempt to spur demand for Cokes on hot summer days. Video ads, including for TV, will feed into this theme. The lead creative agency on the campaign is Atlanta-based Fitzco McCann. Mr. Holod said the campaign would get 13 weeks of “heavy media support,” including three new TV ads.

While some last names might be more popular in some regions of the country than others, Coke does not have plans to regionally target certain names. Mr. Holod said he is confident Coke will have the right mix of names to meet demand across all regions. Coke provided the following list of last names as some of the most popular across its targeted population: Smith, Johnson, Williams, Miller, Garcia, Davis, Rodriguez, Martinez, Hernandez, Lopez. As for first names, Michael is No. 1, according to Coke.

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