Many organisations, big or small, strive throughout their lifetimes to reach such a strong market position that no matter what it did, it would be safe. Well I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but this kind of utopia does not exist. It is impossible for any company to achieve such immunity, and for proof let me use the one brand that many perceive as achieving such ‘mistake-proof’ status: Coca-Cola.

To be the marketing manager of Coke would appear cruisey on face value – marketing an historic, global brand, worth billions of dollars, available at nearly every corner of the earth. The iconic product has such a market leading position, that all there is left is to continue to reinforce that position within its marketing. This sounds easy, but it’s not. Protecting a market leading position is hard work, because there will always be competitors wanting to steal it away. Staying number one is much harder than trying to be number one. It means always raising the bar, changing people’s expectations, and breaking the mould (the same mould that you have created). It means constant self evaluation and often an acceptance that you were wrong.

Consider how easy it would be for Coke to slip – of which they very nearly did with their Australian marketing when they went down the ‘healthy’ route with mum Kerry Armstrong acting as the trustworthy voice of the campaign. The campaign went haywire when the ACCC ordered Coke to publish official statements correcting the false health-related claims of the advertising. This campaign failed not only because it stretched the truth and generated some bad PR, but also because it deviated from what Coke stands for. It tried to convince an already convinced target market, who were put more off-side with the campaign’s hollow promises.

Thank goodness, Coke are back on track with their recent campaign (aka people being shot out of a giant blow up Coke bottle). The campaign is brilliant because it links it all back together again – sun, fun, friends, happiness etc. It reminds you of the ‘feeling’ of Coke, and the circumstances in which you can enjoy it. The surrounding campaigning is also cleverly targeted, positioned and communicated. The campaign also very subtly communicates the health message, using happy, healthy, active, young people, and also reinforces, extremely subtly, that Coke is associated with a certain environment, not as a staple supplement with every meal.

Another example of Coke nearly losing it all was the introduction of ‘New Coke’ in 1985. This story is an interesting one – I recommend you consult the wise source of Wikipedia and read up.

Using the lessons of our great marketing giants, don’t ever become complacent with your market position – it is something you must protect with your life.