Show the way, then get out of the way!

RocÍo Almodóvar Boal, Experiential Marketing Senior Manager for Coca-Cola, Western Europe

Rocío was born in Madrid, Spain and has been passionate about communications since she could talk. On completing her studies on Advertising and Public Relations at the Complutense University of Madrid, she began her professional career working in Sexto Sentido Comunicación handling events, Press releases and Public Relations.

In 2001 she moved to Comunica +A as account manager to lead promotional, experiential and other below the line activities having international experience working in Spain and also in Brazil. For the last 12 years she has taken on varying roles within the Iberian division of the Coca-Cola Company, compiling a full Integrated Marketing Communications vision of the business. These include Public Affairs and Social Corporate Responsibility, Assets Management and events, Digital communications strategy in Mobile Apps, CRM and Social Media channels, and her final position in Iberia as Creative and Content excellence manager, producing some of the most relevant campaigns in the last years in Spain and Portugal. Her last movement was in 2015 when she accepted the role of Experiential Marketing Senior Manager for Coca-Cola in Western Europe, under the Media and Connections Direction, leading the consumer experiences strategies across 14 markets.


What does experiential mean to Coca-Cola?

Well, statistically around 70% of European teens are willing to participate in relevant brand experiences, so it’s a unique opportunity for us to connect with our consumers in a special and memorable way. We define experiential as occasion-based activities, and great events are normally tied to passion points such as music or sports. So for a huge event Coca-Cola wants to be there adding value to the overall amazing experience by providing a delicious, refreshing beverage, which accentuates the joy of the consumer by associating it with the joyful experience. This is ‘Taste the feeling’, our new strategy which expresses really well what the Coca-Cola experience is: Enjoy a delicious and refreshing drink in a unique moment that can become unforgettable. The higher emotional engagement we can reach in the events, the more we can increase brand and product preference, creating an unforgettable impact.

We have recently finished the Rio Olympics, how do plug into the global properties of Coca-Cola?

The global sponsorships and assets provide to us a unique opportunity to be in very special venues and events on a global scale. So the Olympics, the World Cup, the Euro Championships — they’re perfect opportunities to connect with the consumers. In 2016’s UEFA Euro’s, Western Europe was the star with France as host country, and specifically in the experiential side, our French team created really meaningful activations combining product trial with pure experience around soccer: fan zones, sampling points, Euros photobooths, shop window activations. Germany also activated huge public viewing fan zones. However, take the Netherlands for example, whose national team did not participate in the tournament, so our Dutch team created a big alternative promo-experiential activation tied to summer: The Coca-Cola Beach House. So sometimes not having that big opportunity can actually lead to more creative and exciting ideas.


How do you keep everyone aligned in such a big company?

As you can imagine with the size of The Coca-Cola Company, it’s something we handle both physically and virtually. I often joke we live inside a permanent video conference — my headphones are my best friend and my phone is my everything! But this is really helpful because you can work from wherever you are, even working from home you can do your job perfectly well. And operating in such diverse countries and markets, it’s the only way to work effectively. But still, having face-to-face meetings and a way to physically connect in person is still incredibly important. We usually have these twice a year. It’s experiential on the inside of the business too.

How do you coordinate with your colleagues around the world including Atlanta?

The mantra is the same: we are a learning organization: we try to reuse, reapply, improve and steal with as much pride as possible. We feel like a big family, and Atlanta cascades into Business Units as we do with the local market franchises. But in the last few years, the biggest difference is actually being made by digital environments. Most part of our time we are working via multi-country video conferences. We are one-team-offshore. We also have several internal communication tools: Dmex as a big library of knowledge where every market shares its materials and toolkits, THRED a internal site that Global updates with the most relevant brand team news, EG weekly newsletter for European group, Chatter groups… All these resources help a lot to put speed in the coordination and alignment on The Coca-Cola Company and it’s activities.

If we have a good idea in a market with potential to roll out globally, we will try to do so, and always trying to improve upon it too. We prefer innovation to invention.

With such a diverse region in Western Europe, what are some of the cultural nuances to delivering in various geographies?

The key is a dialectical working between Coca-Cola WeBu team and Coca-Cola Franchises to understand the market specifics. Regarding experiential marketing – events, cultural nuances are critical: we deliver the overall strategy and guidelines in a ‘toolkit’ but leaving local details to the locals to take the most of the project. We have really talented local agencies that execute the framework that we provide to them really well. I always say; ‘Show the way, then get out of the way!’ We hardly ever execute experiential plans or events from the central team, they do it from the markets and we work really close to their plans during action reviews. Part of my job is in Western Experiential Market Community, I take care of this community and try to have bimonthly calls with them all together to provide ideas, ask questions and share insight. Coca-Cola is a learning organisation. We believe in openness and sharing experiences, good and bad between markets. If we have a good idea in a market with potential to roll out globally, we will try to do so, and always trying to improve upon it too. We prefer innovation to invention.


Help our readers gain an insight into the Coca-Cola planning cycle (ABP)

Our planning cycle is a combination between long term vision and annual brand plan from central-to local. It’s a perfect combination to visualize where we want to be in the near future and how we’re going to tackle it year by year. Central Brand Teams lead this process, receiving input from other areas: IMC, Customer & Commercial, PAC… And altogether this creates the ABP (annual brand plan) aligned at a central level, which is presented to the local markets & Coca-Cola bottling partners. At the same time, Markets and Bottling Systems create their own ABPs considering central inputs, and in this way, we cascade and align objectives for a proper route-to-market execution, though we are different enterprises and markets all under a Coca-Cola umbrella.

How does working through trade partners to get to your end consumer affect your programs?

That’s the reason we work so closely with our Bottling Partners, because sometimes the venues or the places you activate with experiential, for example summer festivals, are tied to commercial agreements, and must be a collaborative activation from both sides. Even a street sampling has to be informed to the Bottling Partners since it can affect to their local clients. In terms of our customers, they also appreciate Coca-Cola Experiential plans that we provide to them: big, unique experiences for a product launch or exclusive activations for their retail stores, and also those little experiential sampling activations in-store that drives and boost immediate purchase.

Is there a difference between working with the on-premise and off-premise?

Completely. Not only in the kind of experience you can recreate, but also in the product that is starring in the initiative and the consumer attitude over the occasion and momentum. It’s immediate consumption vs. future consumption. On Premise, ‘HoReCa’ (hotels, restaurants, cafes), is a very important channel for Coca-Cola. Perfect served drinks and glass bottle are critical here. There is a ritual around this — in all our brands, but even more in Coke ­— that experiential marketing events help to reinforce a lot. Is an opportunity to create a deeper relationship with the consumer. A bar is the best place to target to young adults and adults because people go to bars, normally with friends, and stay for a while which opens them up to interaction. So we make sure we have quality time to connect with them in a physical, but also in a digital manner.

Off premise is very important too, because here we commercialize future consumption products, and can reach homemakers (anyone can be a homemaker, we talk of ‘home category managers’, not just mums). In this occasion, we do not always have so much time to interact as in other kinds of events, and the perfect serving of the product in sampling is really different to the glass bottle experience. But it’s a really good environment to run promotion, product trials, boost sales in place and also connect in a digital manner

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