The Coca Cola Company is the world’s largest beverage company selling more than 500 brands of soft drink to customers in over 200 countries. Every single day the world consumes more that 1.9 billion servings of their drinks including brands like Coca Cola (including Diet and Zero) as well as Fanta, Sprite, Dasani, Powerade, Schweppes, Minute Maid and others.
Of course, this also means that it generates mountains of data – from production and distribution to sales and customer feedback, the company relies of a solid data-driven strategy to inform business decisions at a strategic level.
In fact, Coca Cola was one of the first globally-recog nise d brands outside of the IT market to speak about Big Data, when in 2012 their chief big data officer, Esat Sezer, said “Social media, mobile applications, cloud computing and e-commerce are combining to give companies like Coca-Cola an unprecedented toolset to change the way they approach IT. Behind all this, big data gives you the intelligence to cap it all off.”
More recently, Greg Chambers, global director of digital innovation, has said “AI is the foundation for everything we do. We create intelligent experiences. AI is the kernel that powers that experience.”
Coca Cola is known to have ploughed extensive research and development resources into artificial intelligence (AI) to ensure it is squeezing every drop of insight it can from the data it collects.
Fruits of this research were unveiled earlier this year when it was announced that the decision to launch Cherry Sprite as a new flavour was based on monitoring data collected from the latest generation of self-service soft drinks fountains, which allow customers to mix their own drinks.
As the machines allow customers to add their own choice from a range of flavour “shots” to their drinks while they are mixed, this meant they were able to pick the most popular combinations and launch it as a ready-made, canned drink.
Coca Cola is also looking to follow the lead of tech giants by developing something similar to their “virtual assistant” AI bots such as Alexa and Siri. The AI will reside in vending machines, allowing greater personal isation – for example, users will be able to order their favour ite blend from any vending machine, with the machine mixing it to their individual preference. The AI will also adapt the machines’ beha viour depending on its location. This could mean more lively and excitable vending machines in malls or entertainment complexes, and more sombre , functional beha viour in a hospital.
As sales of sugary, fizzy drink products have declined in recent years Coca Cola has also hooked into data to help produce and market some of its healthier options, such as orange juice, which the company sells under a number of brands around the world (including Minute Maid and Simply Orange).
The company combines weather data, satellite images, information on crop yields, pricing factors and acidity and sweetness ratings, to ensure that orange crops are grown in an optimum way, and maintain a consistent taste.
The algorithm then finds the best combination of variables in order to match products to local consumer tastes in the 200-plus countries around the world where its products are sold.
Augmented reality (AR) where computer graphics are overlaid on the user’s view of the real world, using glasses or a headset, is being trialed in a number of the company’s bottling plants around the world.
This allows technicians to receive information about equipment they are servicing, and get backup from experts at remote locations who can see what they are seeing and help to diagnose and solve technical problems. It is also used to inspect problems with vending machines and dispensers in remote or difficult-to-reach locations, including cruise ships while they are at sea.
Social data mining
With 105 million Facebook fans and 35 million Twitter followers, social media is another hugely important source of data for the company.
Coca Cola closely tracks how its products are represented across social media, and in 2015 was able to calculate that its products were mentioned somewhere in the world an average of just over once every two seconds.
Knowing this gives insight into who is consuming their drinks, where their customers are, and what situations prompt them to talk about their brand. The company has used AI-driven image recognition technology to spot when photographs of its products, or those of competitors, are uploaded to the internet, and uses algorithms to determine the best way to serve them advertisements. Ads targeted in this way have a four times greater chance of being clicked on than other methods of targeted advertising, the company has said.
Looking further ahead, the company is also interested in the idea of using AI to create adverts.
Speaking at Mobile World Congress this year, global senior digital director Mariano Bosaz said “content creation is something that we have been doing for a very long time – we brief creative agencies and then they come up with stories … what I want to start experimenting with is automated narratives.”
The Coca Cola company is a shining example of a business which has re-ordered itself based on data and intelligence. It has long shown an appreciation of the fact that today’s technology offers unprecedented opportunity to reassess just about every aspect of how business is conducted. Rethinking itself as a technology driven company with a focus on strategic implementation of data and AI means it is likely to retain its place at the head of the pack for the foreseeable future.
Bernard Marr is a world-renowned futurist, influencer and thought leader in the field of business and technology. He is the author of 18 best-selling books, writes a regular column for Forbes and advises and coaches many of the world’s best-known organisations. He has 2 million social media followers and was ranked by LinkedIn as one of the top 5 business influencers in the world and the No 1 influencer in the UK.