This Clever Marketing Campaign Reversed Coke's 11-Year Decline in Soda Sales

'Share a Coke,' in which bottles were personalized with popular names as well as terms of endearment, is credited with increasing Coca-Cola sales for the first time in over a decade.

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By Geoff Weiss Originally published Sep 29, 2014

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Amid plummeting soda consumption, as health-conscious consumers are increasingly guzzling bottled water and other low-calorie beverages, Coca-Cola's marketing team has done the unthinkable.

The company's "Share a Coke' campaign -- in which Coke bottle labels were personalized with 250 popular names, in addition to various terms of endearment, including "Bestie' and "Wingman' -- has reversed a downward sales trend that has plagued the company for the past decade, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Over the span of the temporary promotion, which launched in June and is currently being phased out, soft-drink volumes rose 0.4 percent and Coke sales rose 2.5 percent, the Journal reports. Competitors Pepsi and the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, meanwhile, stayed in the red.

Marketing experts chalked up the triumph of the campaign to an age-old truth -- one that entrepreneurs should bear in mind when in the process of creating or promoting a product: consumers tend to find personalization irresistible.

Related: With Soda Sales Down Anyway, Coke and Pepsi Vow to Promote Healthier Drinks

"A Coke can or bottle is the most iconic design in the world and the fact you can impact that with your name has a huge curiosity and wow factor,'' branding consultant Dean Crutchfield told the Journal.

"Share a Coke' also touted a clever gift-giving dynamic and encouraged collectability. Consumers scavenged stores over the summer -- and have now turned to eBay -- in order to find eponymous cans, and then shared their catches over social media using the hashtag #ShareaCoke.

After being dreamed up by Australian Coke execs and the ad agency Ogilvy, the initiative kicked off down under in 2012, whereupon Coke consumption shot up 7 percent. "Share a Coke' has since spread to 80 countries across the globe.

In addition to the 250 popular teen and millennial names that appeared on 20-ounce bottles of Coke, Diet Coke and Coke Zero -- of which the most-stocked were Chris, Alex and Jess, according to the Journal -- those with less conventional names were served by a touring soda machine that customized roughly 1 million cans at 500 stops across the country.

Related: Diet Coke Campaign Fizzles After Consumers Mock 'You're On Coke' Snafu

Geoff Weiss

Former Staff Writer

Geoff Weiss is a former staff writer at Entrepreneur.com.

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