It’s been a role fraught with discussion about its necessity, but Coca-Cola is the latest high profile brand to appoint its first chief digital marketing officer to help steer the business towards becoming a “digital company, but not just to put ads in social media”.
Earlier this month Coca-Cola hired former Bank of America executive David Godsman to take on the role and quicken the global alignment of its systems around a single digital marketing agenda. Speaking at an industry event last week the drinks giant’s chief marketing officer, Marcos de Quintos, was frank about the effectiveness of Coca-Cola’s digital investments to date, which he said historically haven’t been made in the “smartest way”.
Given the argument that ‘digital’ today is simply just ‘marketing’, the move could be viewed as somewhat passé, however Nic Howell, head of strategy UK at DigitasLBi, said the appointment is a “timely and provocative political move”.
“As we stagger punch-drunk into 2017, it seems odd to even talk about Coca-Cola hiring its first chief digital officer. After all, back in 2014 Forrester predicted that only 1% of firms planned to do the same that year. Isn’t the CDO a footnote in history rather the future of marketing?
“Coke already spends on digital activity and wants to spend more – it has to be part of everyday life. The challenge is to prove the ROI of this spend in the context of all the other levers a brand can pull. Putting someone in the C-Suite to tackle this - and make sense of why Coke has over 300 apps alone - may seem retro, but it’s a timely and provocative political move.”
Coca-Cola is working hard to quicken the pace of its digital transformation having already centralised its social media operations by creating the North American Social Centre, a real-time newsroom to manage social media marketing for all its trademarked brands. By removing multiple agencies running different accounts independent of one another, Coca-Cola is hoping to movie its social media to a much lower cost base that is more effective.
The centre is staffed by 55 people, including marketers from Coca-Cola North America alongside executives from agencies Possible, Havas and Publicis-owned Moxie, who are focused on listening and analytics, content strategy, creation and publishing, community management, marketing science, legal and media buying.
The maker of Diet Coke and Sprite is also looking at how it can use Beacons, not as a sustainable marketing took, but as a way to exploit the data it can collect and apply it to the company’s mobile app strategy, that could see it drastically reduce its 300 strong app portfolio to increase its user base. Currently the majority of Coca-Cola's apps have less than 50,000 users.
Earlier this year Nike too appointed its first chief digital officer to run all products and services across Nike.com, Nike+ as well the brand's other digital platforms to help it compete against the likes of Under Armour, which has been working hard to build its position in the wearable space, something Nike had been an early pioneer of.