How to Use Coca-Cola’s ​Tactics and Uncover Market Opportunity

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At the 2016 Corporate Researchers Conference, Coca-Cola’s Global Director, Strategy & Innovation, Jillian Tirath shared a fascinating story – that you can learn from to super charge your own market research.

In the quest to discover and vet opportunities to grow Coca-Cola brands, Tirath and her team wanted to gain a deeper understanding of what motivates people to buy and consume beverages while away from home.

They partnered with the Halverson Group to identify the “jobs” that beverages fulfill in people’s daily lives. These jobs became a way to quantify how universal life situations and core human moods interact to influence how people think, feel and act. How did they collect this data? Through extensive surveys.

At the end of the project, Coca-Cola found an additional 2.5 billion (yes, billion with a “b”) weekly jobs that their products could help consumers complete while away from home. That’s a huge untapped potential revenue stream, even for a brand as massive as Coca-Cola.

Here we’ll break down their approach so you can consider adopting it for your own sales and marketing strategies.


Winds of Change Affect Brands of All Sizes

It’s easy to imagine that Coca-Cola doesn’t need to chase sales or worry about shifting trends. They’re Coca-Cola, after all.

But this presentation is a reminder that no matter our size, audience, or competitive landscape, organizations need data, backed by custom research, to allow us to, “stay abreast of these trends and how consumers are responding to them in their daily lives.”

It’s the latter part of this statement – how alterations in macro economic and cultural forces shape an audience’s daily choices – that many of us fail to consider. We look at customer lifetime value, average time to purchase, or other brand-centric metrics, but we don’t take time to examine what changes these might reflect for our audience and customers.

Coca-Cola’s approach, looking at the concept of “jobs” can help shift marketers’ and researchers’ mindsets to a customer-centric point of view instead of a brand focused one.


Buying a Hole, Not a Drill

Ron Halverson’s firm, the Halverson Group, was brought in to help Coca-Cola conduct the highly detailed, worldwide study needed to reach this new level of understanding. They based their approach on a simple idea:


So, the notion of a “job” is shorthand for what someone really wants to do in a given situation. In the September 2016 of the Harvard Business Review, Clayton Christensen et al. expanded on the notion of jobs further to include:

  • The circumstances are more important than customer characteristics, product attributes, new technologies, or trends.
  • Good innovations solve problems that formerly had only inadequate solutions — or no solution.
  • Jobs are never simply about function — they have powerful social and emotion dimensions.

Given this information, Halverson and Coca-Cola’s hypothesis was that if they could better understand the Jobs a consumer is trying to accomplish, they would improve innovation hit rates and marketing strategies.

They dove in (with a little help from surveys).


Risks of a Jobs Approach

While the traditional jobs approach can offer uniquely powerful insights into a market, it comes with three risks:

  1. Not determining if the juice is worth the squeeze. Basically, are there enough consumers trying to accomplish a given job to make it sufficiently profitable?
  2. Not determining whose jobs are most important to win. Even if you’ve got Coca-Cola’s marketing budget you can’t target everybody all the time.
  3. Focusing on disruptive innovations versus also focusing on strategies for winning jobs with existing products and services. No need to reinvent the wheel if an existing product, feature, or service can help you audience achieve their job.

To address these three risks, Halverson and Coca-Cola developed the following approach:


When laid out in a sequence, as it might be experienced by a consumer, this approach looks like this:


It’s important to remember that a job largely hinges on the situation an individual finds themself in. For instance, a woman who has just worked out might feel accomplished, want to stay on her healthy track, and so purchase a bottle of water from a convenience store on her way home from the gym.

After her next workout, however, the same woman might want to celebrate a key milestone by stopping to get a milkshake from a fast food restaurant on her way home from the gym.

Importantly, two very different people who find themselves in the same situation may end up with the same job and the same choice of solution, as illustrated here:



How This Approach Leads to Brand Growth

According to Halverson, their Jobs-to-be-Won approach, “measures a wide set of jobs in people’s lives, sizes and prioritizes jobs to identify growth opportunities and activates through strategic execution corridors that fuel innovation, positioning, marketing and sales.”

But Halverson’s team didn’t just investigate the jobs that consumers might solve with Coca-Cola products. They also looked at the consumption of 600 different beverage brands in 40 different beverage categories across 900 retail outlets.

Turning 30,000 People Into Jobs to Be Won

In the end, they spoke with over 30,000 people in eleven countries about the role of beverages in their daily lives. Using the jobs framework, they broke the “Person” category into three groups:

  • Core Customers to protect and nurture: People who drive a disproportionate amount of business and lifetime value, at the category level as well as the brand level.
  • Moveable Middle to target for growth: Those who have no significant barriers and are potentially highly leveragable; efficient targets from which to grow.
  • Limited Immediate Potential to monitor: People with little current or future value or people (Category Rejecters, Brand Rejecters, etc.) and Non-Category Participants.

Each person would encounter various situations that could lead to a beverage purchase. Halverson’s team found eight life situations that drive 80% of beverage consumption away from home, and on which they would focus their attention:


Moods and Motivation

Each situation would bring with it a common mood, which would need to be accounted for in order to help consumers complete the job at hand. These fell on a continuum like this:


The next piece of the puzzle, the motives, are huge drivers of people’s choices. They transcend categories and brands, driving people to meet their functional needs as well as manage their mood in various situations.

For example, if someone’s mood is playful, they may want to engage in behaviors that will amplify that feeling. If they’re anxious, they’ll look for behaviors that increase their feelings of control

Once they had all this data in hand, the researchers looked at the Product and Source information:

  • What beverage choice was made, and what was the source?
  • What other options were considered?
  • How effective was the choice for accomplishing the job?
  • What recommendations surface for better accomplishing the job?


Revealing Untapped Potential with Jobs Approach

In the end, turning their focus to the audience and their individual jobs was a major win for Coca-Cola. They identified 5 billion untapped away from home opportunities each week in the U.S., about half of which include a beverage purchase:


These scenarios were spread over nearly all the situations the researchers identified, from mid-day breaks to shopping trips to working out. Halverson and Coca-Cola also discovered that beverages played a major role in other choices that people made on a daily basis, including where they chose to eat away from home.

And they did it all with survey software.


Tackle Your Own Consumer Behavior Study with Alchemer

Ultimately, for Coca-Cola (and for our own brands), we should remember that situations, moods, and motives will often predict consumer behavior more accurately than demographic factors. Through surveys, we can research, explore, and understand the jobs our audience is hoping our products can complete. With this information, we can create marketing that’s more focused on the end user, and therefore more successful.

While this may seem daunting, the benefits are huge. An affordable, easy-to-use online survey tool like Alchemer is the best place to start, so you have the flexibility to create every kind of survey you need and the ease-of-use to collect and analyze data faster and more efficiently than ever before. Get started today.

Andrea Fryrear is the chief content officer for Fox Content, where she uses agile content marketing principles to drive content strategy and implementation for her clients. She also writes for and edits The Agile Marketer, a community of marketers on the front lines of the agile marketing transformation. She geeks out on all things agile and content on LinkedIn and Twitter

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