Ashley-BrownYou’ve called Coca-Cola Journey the biggest rethink of the company’s online presence since you launched your website in 1995. Your last major redesign was in 2005. How has Coca-Cola’s approach to content evolved over the years?

Prior to Journey, we viewed our corporate website as a static information point. It was designed to connect people to corporate information as quickly as possible, and we never deviated from that.

Today, with Journey, our focus is on storytelling. You can still find investors information or job postings easily, but we’re putting the core of Coca-Cola – our brands and their connection to our consumers – front and centre.

The New York Times referred to Coca-Cola Journey as an example of corporate storytelling, as opposed to brand storytelling, with its emphasis on the company’s history. Do you see a difference?

I think they are the same. The Coca-Cola Company is inextricably linked to our brands, and our brands – like the company – have rich histories.

And while we are absolutely committed to telling our brand stories, we’re telling some terrific company stories too.

The Coca-Cola Journey home page is image heavy, with links to stories about the company's corporate culture in addition to its various brands.

The Coca-Cola Journey home page is image heavy, with links to stories about the company’s corporate culture in addition to its various brands.

How does Coca-Cola’s online voice differ from the one we’ve been hearing for decades on TV and billboards? One of the buzzwords folks throw around when talking about digital communications is “humanization.”Is that a big part of it?

Every day, Journey is written, laid out, and produced by some pretty terrific humans. I hope our voice and passion is coming through.

Journey seeks to reach a digitally-savvy, globally-aware, and socially-connected reader, and we hope we’re communicating in a way that smart, fun, and even a bit fearless. We haven’t figured everything out yet, but we’re getting closer and better at it every day.

The revamped website includes posts that don't include content directly related to Coca-Cola's brands.

The revamped website includes posts that don’t reference Coca-Cola’s brands.

You’ve said you want Journey to be a “credible source” of information and most of the content on the site refers directly to Coca-Cola brands or partnerships, though you occasionally run general interest pieces. How do you strike a balance between promoting your products and simply providing customers with relevant content?  

We are finding the right balance between covering Coca-Cola, which is our job, with providing shared value to our readers, which is also our job.  I’m not sure we’ve found the sweet spot yet, but we’re working on it.

We definitely intend to produce more pieces like “Hire Power,” and our goal is to always provide something valuable back to the readers who elect to spend some time with us.

You told the Times that your digital communications and social media team has been re-formed in the last year to look more like an editorial team at a long-lead magazine.” How so?

Coca-Cola Journey aggregates posts from multiple networks into a tumble-style blog for each brand.

Coca-Cola Journey aggregates posts from multiple networks into a tumble-style blog for each brand.

We are 100% focused on creating great stories (editorial, art, etc.) and syndicating those stories to the widest possible audience.

We believe that great social media work has great content at its core, and someone has to create that content. To paraphrase Gertrude Stein: “there has to be a there there.”

When Coca-Cola Journey was launched, you wrote on the site that “more than 1.8 billion times a day, every day, people express their love for our brands by purchasing one of our products.” Do you really believe that buying one of your products and expressing love for your brands are the same thing?

Yes, because I don’t believe that many folks buy products from brands they don’t like. Every touch point with the consumer is an opportunity for engagement.

There will always be critics who contend that at the end of the day, Coca-Cola is selling different versions of what Steve Jobs famously called “sugar water” (referring to Pepsi), and that any sort of content marketing is an attempt to, well, sugarcoat the public health implications of that. How would you respond?

They should get in touch with us. If a critic wants to author an opinion piece for us, and be open to a counterpoint from Coca-Cola, we will publish it.

Coca-Cola’s Ashley Callahan will be speaking at the sixth annual Custom Content Conference, which takes place April 9-11 in Chicago. The focus this year will be on results, ROIs and upcoming trends. Sparksheet is an official media partner.