Marit Kroon: There is no such thing as a marketing plan in Coca-Cola

Interview with Marit Kroon, Marketing Manager for Juice Business in Southern and Eastern Europe, The Coca-Cola Company. Marit is a speaker at Balticbest conference in Jurmala, Latvia on August 23-24, 2016.

One of the topics of Balticbest is "Marketing plan 2017". How do you plan marketing activities in Coca-Cola?

There is no such thing as a marketing plan in Coca- Cola, we only have business plan and marketing activities are part of that.. Marketing is not a kingdom in itself, it cannot exist in the isolation. Marketing activities are part of the general business plan. That is why we also need more universal marketing agencies who understand our business in broader terms.

Here in the Baltics we love to think that Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians are all different. You coordinate a big European region, how do you see the Baltic differences and similarities in a broader context?

This is my daily challenge – how to execute a marketing campaign for 23 markets. How to find common topics and solutions for the different markets, such as Albania, Estonia and Switzerland, that all belong to my region.

In general, I can say that the countries are becoming more similar. The problems for most European countries are similar too. Only very few countries in Europe have succeeded in growing their economies, so that is common issue for all European countries.

But if you compare the consumer behavior? Some nations obviously like apple juice and some others prefer orange juice? Can you create universal marketing communication that is applicable to all markets?

The trend is the same here, markets and consumers are becoming more similar. Of course, cultural differences remain. If you think of a typical family in Italy, it is different from a typical family in Latvia.

We have grouped the countries based on some general cultural values. For example, Romania is in the same group with Latin American countries, Poland belongs to the same group with Germany, UK and Japan.

But for sure, we are not going to create unique advertising campaigns for each and every market.

How is the role of the agencies changing? Do you need local agencies here in the Baltics only for translation and adaption?

The role of local agencies has changed a lot. In the past, we briefed the agencies in each market and produced expensive TV ads in each market.

Now we need the local agencies for connection planning. Local agency is the one that must take the international creative approach and adapt it to the local market.

Does that mean that main role of the local agency is media planning?

I think that traditional media agencies, as we know them today, do not have the future. They need to change. Connection planning is much more than just media planning. It is media-neutral content planning for the local market. The role of the local agencies is to come up with solutions that work in TV, digital media, point of sale, etc.

Do such agencies exist already?

Some agencies are developing in that direction already. In Europe, we work with MediaCom and develop the philosophy of content planning together.

Wendy Clark, Former Marketing VP of Coca-Cola North America is now the boss of DDB agency. She shared her experience about moving from the client side to the agency this year in Cannes Lions festival. She said that ideally, the agency and the client should work as one team, in real time. You cannot give a brief to an agency and wait for several weeks for the ideal solution any more. It is not like all good ideas come from the agency creatives, the client can also be creative!

There are even more partners involved in the process – the big idea may come from the digital agency or media agency. Such agencies compete with each other in a way. But connection planning requires that all partners involved work in harmony, not compete with each other. So yes, there is some controversy programmed in the model. And the agency who comes up with the leading idea, will also get the biggest share of the budget.

What are the chances of Baltic agencies to become lead agencies for Coca-Cola in the European level?

I have not worked with the Baltic agencies recently, so it is difficult to comment. Right now I am re-discovering the Baltic agency scene for myself.

But it is quite difficult for the Baltic agencies to take a leading role in multinational teams. Winning ideas usually tend to come from the big markets. The image of the agency is important, their history and track record really matter. Also, the image of the country of agency’s origin matters. That is why Swedish agencies often work with global clients regardless of the fact that Sweden is not very big market.

But it is not impossible for the Baltic agencies to get more important role. They just need to work hard, try hard.

Interviewed by Hando Sinisalu, Best Marketing International