Different names on Coke bottles. Different names on Coke bottles. Different names on Coke bottles. (Photo: Courtesy of Coca-Cola)

Your name on a Coke bottle: Behind the scenes of the popular campaign

Coca-Cola's 'Share a Coke' campaign found fans from A to Z.

Elizabeth, David and Mark were happy. So were people with names like Kyle, Kendra and Keisha. Coca-Cola's "Open Happiness" campaign got a boost this summer when millions of people were pleasantly surprised to find their names emblazoned on iconic Coke bottles. U.S. sales of the soft drink went up since the campaign launched in June. And with the success of the named labels, many are hoping Coca-Cola brings back the campaign next summer and for other special events as well.

Coca-Cola's regular bottling facilities were not equipped to make the unique labels, so the beverage manufacturer turned to Indigo, an Israeli-based division of Hewlett-Packard, that employs scientists, engineers and artists to create special digital presses.

“The point of this campaign was to get more emotional engagement from the consumer to Coke," Yishai Amir, the HP vice president who worked on the project, tells From The Grapevine.

Among the places participating in the named-labels campaign were Australia, Israel, Europe, Canada, Mexico and the United States. Amir, who shuttles between HP offices in Atlanta and Israel, says that 150 of the most common names in each country were chosen. Websites were set up where customers could suggest more names. Special labels were also printed for specific sporting events. Generic terms like "Grandpa" and "Mom" were also used. “There’s no limit for using their imagination with this campaign," Amir says.

Experts say the labels were a marketing success. "I was actually surprised at how well it worked," Dr. Barbara Kahn, a brand and marketing professor at The Wharton School, tells From The Grapevine. "Even more than just the idea of a customized can of Coke, they got secondary advertising out of it because people would take a snapshot of the Coke bottles and send them on to people they knew." 

Kahn says that served as a mechanism to increase the word of mouth. "We know that when a friend refers a product, it has a stronger influence on purchasing intention instead of paid advertising."

Kahn says that more companies are breaking one of the cardinal rules of marketing – brand consistency. She cited Google's ever-changing home page logo, as well as a recent Heinz ketchup campaign where labels were printed with different witty aphorisms. "It's a bit of a treasure hunt," she says. "It built a stronger relationship between customer and brand. It builds a positive charge, 30 seconds of happiness."

Asked what was the strangest name his company printed on the bottles, Yishai Amir of HP, responded: "Some people think the strangest name is Yishai."



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