When I tell people that Coca-Cola flew me out to Atlanta for a two-day blogger event — Conversations with Coca-Cola — I almost always get the same response. “How cool! Wait, so…why? What do they get out of it?” (That, and, “You?“)
Having hosted the Yahoo! Mother Board Summit a couple years ago, I’m able to answer this question from the corporate and blogger perspective. The invitation and their communications said they wanted to inspire and engage us. To have a conversation with select blogging moms (21 of us), and get our thoughts on what they’re doing. (And they really did put together a wonderful event with great content and community building.)
I can tell you that beyond what was said, what they really hope is that we share all the amazing experiences we had which, will, in turn give our readers a more positive perception of Coca-Cola — their products, their social impact, their brand — making them top of mind when it comes time to purchase beverages. So, I figure I’ll share some of the things I took away from the experience, and let you decide if it worked. Also, if you have more questions or have people you think would be great fits for some of their social good programs, please reach out to me. I’d love to take advantage of the relationship I’ve built with them to help this community.
(While I won’t go into details here on all that we did, my new friend, Tami of Colorado Mountain Mom, wrote an awesome recap. I’ll probably do another post of pictures once I get the professional’s pics — yep, they had a great photographer there to capture it all!)
Here’s what I learned…
…During the opening keynote, given by Catherine Connors, Babble (and Disney Baby) Editor in Chief:
Lesson #1: Blogs are so successful because they’re written by real women “on the ground”. They’re not the edited, sanitized version of parenting that magazines tend to present.
Lesson #2: Disney, which is arguably the world’s most famous storytelling machine, saw the power of moms telling their own stories through blogs. About a year ago they bought Babble, and they continue to find new ways to shine a light on these stories. I happen to be one of the very lucky storytellers on their Disney Baby team, and hearing Catherine speak gave me a new sense of pride.
Lesson #3: Though bloggers may be writing from their living room couch, they can be just as skilled and influential as highly respected authors (think David Sedaris and The Bloggess).
…From the Women in the Workplace panel:
Lesson #4: Since women make two thirds of household spending decisions, Coca-Cola does everything — from product development to marketing to charitable work — with us in mind. (For instance, you can learn about how Coca-Cola is committed to empowering 5 million women entrepreneurs by 2020 here.)
Lesson #5: The panel of four female executives — with twelve kids between them — were all in agreement when I asked, “Do you let your children drink Coke and other Coca-Cola products?” Their collective response was that they do. They teach their kids that balance is the key to health — be it food, relationships, etc. While it’s important to eat well and take care of our bodies (exercise was a huge theme), it’s also ok to enjoy a treat now and then. (Visit the BeverageInstitute.org for nutrition and healthy living information. They have experts weighing in on artificial sweeteners, caffeine, and more.)
Lesson #6: Coca-Cola has some very articulate, smart women on their side. A few of my favorite insights from them were: 1) Though you may be trying to juggle many different things, give 100% of yourself to whatever you’re doing at the moment — even if it’s only 5 minutes. (I’m terrible about focus and try to do too many things at once. And fail.) 2) “You have to lift as you climb,” said Eileen Thanner, VP of Commercial Capabilities. In other words, support and mentor women who are following in your footsteps. (Unfortunately I don’t think the blogging community is very good at this, which is why I adore being a part of Project: Underblog) 3) Be comfortable with saying no, and be confident in what you’ve chosen to do. As Stuart Kronauge, Senior VP of Trademark Marketing, said, “Embracing this mentality gave me back the slivers of time I was debating with myself in my head.” I loved her words and keep playing them back in my head. You know, instead of debating myself like I tend to do. All. Day. Long.
…At the World of Coke:
Lesson #7: In the late 1800s, Asa Griggs Candler, who bought the formula for Coke from its inventor John Pemberton, was likely the first person to understand the power of influencer marketing. He’d deliver free drink coupons to various establishments around town and ask the leader to give them to influential people in the community. He felt that if others saw these influencers drinking Coca-Cola in the local fountain shops, they’d follow. And it worked. (Amazing that they’re still using similar marketing methods to build what’s already one of the world’s greatest brands.)
Lesson #8: The Coca-Cola polar bear is one flirty fella. And the Italian soda “Beverly” is horrid, while the South African drink, “Bibo Candy Pine-Nut” is deeelish. (Check out The World of Coke tour to see more. I had no idea this place existed!)
…During the Our History, Our Commitment Talk
Lesson #9: If you’ve opened a Dasani water bottle lately and noticed that it’s so squeezy water squirts out the top, there’s a very good reason for that. As they incorporate more natural materials into their plastic, and work to reduce waste, the bottles have become more thin and pliable. And, most importantly, more sustainable. (Learn about their PlantBottle and other eco-friendly actions at LivePositively.com.)
Lesson #10: While people think “soda” when they hear Coca-Cola, they actually have a huge portfolio of products. While my kids don’t drink soda, and Lenny and I rarely do, we do enjoy Smart Water, Vitamin Water, Odwalla (we got to taste all kinds of deliciousness from their dynamic team), and Minute Maid, to name a few. (See the huge list here.) Coca-Cola even holds a majority stake in ZICO coconut water, which I enjoy in my green smoothies.
Honestly, this is just scratching the surface of what we did in two short, but packed days. (Vision boards, cooking demos, cocktails and southern dining, games with highly competitive women…) And, for me, one of the greatest things about the event was the women I got to meet. Of course the Coca-Cola/Odwalla/Target women were truly lovely, but getting to know a whole new world of bloggers was one of my favorite parts. While there were women there who get more page views a day than I do a month, I didn’t feel like a little blog. I felt like a strong voice, and these women truly did lift me up.
In case you’re interested, here’s a list of the attendees:
Aimee of GreebleMonkey.com
Alexandra of BeverlyHillsMom.com
Andrea of SavvySassyMoms.com
Angie of AZMomofManyHats.blogspot.com
Carina of JetSetCarina.com
Christine of FromDatestoDiapers.com
Deanna of MommyGAGA.com
Jamie of IAmNotTheBabysitter.com
Jenn of HomeIsWhereYouStartFrom.com
Jessica of ItsJessicasLife.com
Kathryn of DaringYoungMom.com
Kelly of KellyTirman.com
Kimberly of TippyToesandTantrums.com
Megan of 425Mom.com
Megan of SunshineWonderland.com
Meghan of MeghanGWine.com
Melanie of MelADramaticMommy.com
Shera of AFrogInMySoup.com
Tami of ColoradoMountainMom.com
Yolanda of SassyMamainLA.com
Disclosure: Coca-Cola generously hosted all of my travel, accommodations, and meals during this trip. All opinions are my own.