Martin Luther King would have celebrated his 92nd birthday on January 15th this year. 

His passing came at the height of the US Civil Rights movement. A period in which some parallels can be drawn with the current tensions in the USA. 

Around a year after his assassination, a bold marketing leader at Coke (and their agency) realised that the world was changing, and with it, their advertising needed to change, too. 

In 1969 Coke ran the first US advert to feature both African American and white Americans. There they are, just sitting together enjoying a Coke. Hard to believe this was a thing.  

Was it opportunistic? Debatable.  Was it a step that they had to take? Absolutely! 

It was a bold move. You can imagine 1969 conservative middle America, the core Coke drinkers, choking on their corn flakes and clutching their pearls in horror. Now imagine the conservative objectors in the Coke businesses whispering ‘this could destroy us!’

Did it pay off? The brand thrived throughout the 70s and still endures. And we know it was just the right thing to do. 

I suspect that the bold marketing leader wasn’t being opportunistic. I suspect they were thinking about the long-term.  The need to evolve.  The need to protect share. The need to remain relevant through brand fame.  The need to talk to the masses and recruit a new generation.  

It’s my belief that we (marketers and advertisers) don’t favour such bold, long-term thinking today. Especially here in Australia.

Instead, we obsess over the short-term, the CTA, the product image, the conversion tactics.  All important things, but they could be worth so much more and work so much harder if they were balanced with long-term, demand generation, fame building activities. Research shows time again that the long-lasting effects of brand fame are what drives long-term sizable growth, if they’re balanced with the short-term, of course. 

Author, David Kennedy-Cosgrove, Managing Partner


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