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The Share a Coke Campaign is Back with Last Names and Holiday Destinations

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To the delight of anyone who enjoys spending hours digging through supermarket fridges, Coca-Cola’s monumentally successful Share a Coke campaign is heading back to the UK, with this year’s campaign swapping out the logos on Coca-Cola, Coca-Cola Zero Sugar and Diet Coke bottles with some popular summer holiday destinations. The iconic brand is hoping to drive the connection between a cold bottle of Coke with the summer period and summer holidays in general, with labels now set to display the names of exotic cities and destinations such as Hawaii, Bali, Ibiza and Miami. The promotion will be supported by a weighty marketing campaign including TVC, digital OOH, social media, PR and influencer campaign, and Coca-Cola said it will also undertake its biggest UK sampling activation ever, giving away 11 million samples of Coca-Cola Zero Sugar in cities and festivals throughout the UK.

The soft drinks giant will be hoping the campaign will give it a much needed boost as it continues its attempt to boost flagging sales alongside its primary rival Pepsi, which recently ran into a storm of controversy over their tone-deaf Kendall Jenner ad. Though reportedly, that now notoriously terrible spot actually gave the brand some much needed exposure and actually boosted sales. Turns out there really is no such thing as bad press. Coke, however, is sticking to more conventional tactics. Last month the company announced that, from 1 May, it will combine its global marketing, customer and commercial leadership under the newly created 'chief growth officer role' amid several other senior leadership appointments, when president and chief operational officer, James Quincey, becomes the company’s new chief executive. It will also ditch its unsuccessful Coke Life brand in June, which has failed to grow since 2000. I personally still don't really know what it is or why it is, and it appears Coke themselves never did either, or at least never really knew what to do with it.

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Aedamar Howlett, Marketing Director at Coca-Cola Great Britain, said of this new spin on an old campaign: “Share a Coke was a global phenomenon which took product personalisation to the next level. The 2014 campaign earned a number of awards and mass-scale engagement with our customers online and in-store. This year, we are building on its success by reminding people in the UK why Coke makes summer more special; while giving them the opportunity to share a Coke with loved ones in some of the most desirable locations across the world.”

The original Share a Coke campaign launched in the UK back in 2013 after first debuted in Australia two years earlier, and was wildly popular across the globe, driving declining sales of the soft drink up significantly over the 2014/2015 period as fans and indifferent chancers alike scrambled to find their names. It returned last year with song lyrics of catchy tunes, but didn't seem to catch the imagination of the public quite as much. Maybe it's because we care more about ourselves than our favourite songs? Or maybe we'd just had enough of the idea by then and needed a break? Either way, we'll get to see just how much (or how little) we all care about casually letting people know where we like to go (or wish we could go) on holiday when the new campaign kicks off in the UK and Europe in May.

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Across the pond in the States, meanwhile, the original campaign never ended, with new names and flavours carrying those names added every year. This year, it's looking to get on a more personal, last-name basis with consumers by adding surnames to the mix. So some bottles will carry first names, as before, whilst others will carry last names, presumably in order to convince fans to buy two bottles at once! Coke reportedly 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 US between the ages of 13-to-34. The brand's roster of first names now includes more than 800 options. 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. They did, however provide 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.

The rebranded “Share an Ice Cold Coke” campaign now also offers US consumers the chance to order personalised glass bottles online, and the company will also be taking the campaign across the country, customising Coca-Cola or Coke Zero mini-cans at tour stops in 17 states. This year also will see the return of Coca-Cola’s patriotic packaging inspired by the American flag and featuring the USO badge. It all sounds remarkably twee to me, but then that's the brand and it does admittedly feel like a “very Coke move.” What are your thoughts? Do you think the campaign has finally torn off more than it can chew? Or are these latest branches of the ongoing work enough to breathe fresh life into it? I'm unfortunately very much in the former camp, but that doesn't mean I'm not willing to entertain a compelling argument.

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Benjamin Hiorns is a freelance writer and struggling musician from Kidderminster in the UK.

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