What Is Coca-Cola's Target Market & Marketing Strategy?

By David NaarLast Updated Apr 23, 2021 9:13:51 PM ET
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Photo Courtesy: Artem Beliaikin/Pexels

"Let’s share a coke!" The global popularity of Coca-Cola can’t be denied. Traditionally, marketers were always told to focus all their messaging on a specific, target audience. But Coca-Cola has taken a decidedly different approach by employing mass marketing. So, does the company have a target market — and how has this marketing strategy helped them flourish?

Coca-Cola Marketing

Before we can understand how Coca-Cola operates today, we have to look at its history. Invented by John Stith Pemberton, Coca-Cola’s name comes from the two ingredients first used to make the beverage back in 1886: kola nuts and coca leaves. At the time, folks believed that carbonation was a cure to various health issues, so, following that logic, the beverage was meant to be sold as a medicinal product.

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Photo Courtesy: George Marks/Getty Images

Three years after the drink’s invention, the formula was purchased by Asa Griggs Candler, who distributed Coca-Cola from Atlanta, Georgia across the United States. The very first advertising campaign focused on enticing consumers: "Coca Cola. Delicious! Refreshing! Exhilarating! Invigorating!" Sure, it wasn’t highly original, but it marked the start of one of the most popular brands in the world.

For almost 70 years, Coca-Cola was sold for five cents a bottle. This allowed the brand to position itself as a favorable choice, even amid two world wars and the Great Depression. Keeping the price consistent was one of the company’s greatest brand-building decisions — and, perhaps even more impressively, the company was successful enough to sustain that price-point for decades.

In 1899, the company made another fantastic business decision: it created the Coca-Cola system. Chandler sold the bottling rights for just one dollar, and the three businessmen that purchased them created a franchise partnership that contributed to Coca-Cola’s global distribution and, eventually, global success. Soon enough, Coke was bottled by 250 plants around the world and distributed in over 200 countries.

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In 1960, the company began expanding beyond its carbonated beverage business. It purchased the Minute Maid Corporation, Sprite, TaB, and Fresca — each of which had its own unique selling point. A little over two decades later, the company made another important launch: Diet Coke. By 2015, Coca-Cola reported having a whopping 600 products registered to its name.

Coca-Cola Marketing Strategy

Let’s go more in-depth on what makes Coca-Cola tick. In general, the company's target market includes, well, everyone, from adults to teenagers. (However, the company doesn't specifically advertise to children under 12 years old due to the controversy surrounding childhood obesity.) In general, Coke targets its existing and future customers through various mediums, but, primarily, each target market follows its own marketing strategy.

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Photo Courtesy: Oleg Magni/Pexels

If you’re a marketer, you’re familiar with the 4 P's of a marketing strategy, also known as product, price, promotion, and place. Coca-Cola follows the majority of these, but, due to its global recognition, its strategy is slightly different and encompasses several more pillars. For our purposes, we’re delving into the 4 P’s.

Product: As mentioned above, owning a wide range of products gave the company a huge sales boost and global recognition. These products include Coca-Cola, Sprite, Fanta, Diet Coke, Coca-Cola Zero, Coca-Cola Life, Coca-Cola Light, Minute Maid, Dasani, Ciel, Powerade, Costa Coffee, Simply Orange, Fresca, Glaceau Vitamin Water, Del Valle, Glaceau Smartwater, Mello Yello, Fuze, Fuze Tea, Honest Tea, Odwalla, and Powerade Zero. Each product comes with its own unique marketing strategy that depends on many factors, including demand.

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Price: When it comes to pricing, what really helped Coca-Cola stand out was its five-cent appeal in the early days. The pricing strategy changed once more competitors were brought onboard and challenged the public’s perception when it came to affordable drinks and quality. As other brands began to raise their prices while maintaining their reputation, Coca-Cola had to follow suit. The company uses various pricing strategies, including psychological pricing, promotional pricing, segmented pricing, discriminatory pricing, and international pricing.

Promotion: Coca-Cola spent $4.2 billion on marketing in 2019. From global and local advertising campaigns and digital campaigns to offline advertising, the company’s promotional strategy includes several different pillars. The 2016 "Taste the Feeling" campaign allowed the brand to further elevate its position and emotionally connect the users to the products. Along with advertising, the company also invests in sustainable manufacturing, which is one of their ethical missions. By focusing on sustainability, the brand was further able to make itself more appealing to its consumers. Utilizing promotion, the company can truly reach out to every single target market.

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Place: Coca-Cola is distributed across Europe, North America, Latin America, Africa, Eurasia, and the Pacific. It’s also able to have products where many companies aren’t able to go — destinations such as Cuba and North Korea. The company admits that it’s the manufacturer and the seller, but it wouldn’t be able to be where it is without the help of its bottling partners, who sell the products to the consumers. The partners are the ones that work with various venues around the world in order to focus on the local "place" strategies of the company. They’re a crucial part of that strategy and allow the venues to sell 1.9 billion servings a day to their customers.

So, where does mass marketing come into play? Mass marketing is a strategy that utilizes a single campaign for the masses, as its name indicates. That is, the ad should be compelling to anyone who might possibly stumble across it. One of the most famous mass marketing efforts is that of Coca-Cola, which, as we’ve established, markets its main Coke beverage to all. Over the years, the company has run a variety of advertisements with its iconic polar bears, for example, and those memorable ads are meant to appeal to everyone, not a particular group of Coke drinkers.

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Coca-Cola Marketing Strengths and Weaknesses

Coca-Cola has a strong global marketing strategy with many pillars that are crucial to the brand’s success. The unique positioning of the brand is its biggest strength — and, of course, its network of bottling partners doesn’t hurt. Its high brand equity works in its favor too, further strengthening the company’s marketing position.

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So, what’s Coca-Cola’s biggest weakness? It’s competition, like Pepsi, which continues to create a divide among consumers’ preferences. Not to mention, all soda is up against a lot when it comes to backlash over health concerns. That is, the controversial sugar intake in the brand’s products contributes to ever-growing health concerns, like diabetes. With these weaknesses in mind, the company must continue developing its marketing strategy in order to stay on top — and on tap.

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