Coke and trolling the trolls

Over on Medium, I posted some analysis on the Coke Super Bowl ad that provoked backlash from a handful of people who, it’s probably fair to say, are ridiculous. The primary point, from a marketing perspective:

Correctly predicting that Pepsi would fail to react [to Coke] in any meaningful way is what made the ad really work. Pepsi could’ve trumped Coke with a clear, elegant response that would be generating positive media coverage today. But it missed that opportunity.

This case study shows why demands to state upfront the ROI of strategic media work bother me: I don’t know how to quantify the impact of something a company didn’t do. Could Pepsi have turned Coke on its heels by reacting to the commercial and the backlash it provoked? I think so. (The more-objective answer: Probably.) But the company didn’t. So we’ll never know how effectively a reaction would’ve seeped into this week’s news cycle because Pepsi didn’t even trial-balloon one.

It also highlights why I’ve always thought of social media as infrastructure just as critical to an organization’s performance as an interstate highway is to a country’s commerce. Whereas traditional PR efforts are a pull mechanism designed to influence reporters who will ultimately influence stakeholders, owned media, collectively, produces a pull effect. Audiences get drawn in, and ideally bounce from a blog post to a Twitter feed to a Facebook fan page.

Optimizing the potential of owned media platforms amplifies a message — and, as we’re seeing with the Coke commercial, owned media chatter can drive positive earned media coverage. Building out the infrastructure is one of the services we provide.