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Out of the Trenches, Into the Aisles: How Coke, Burberry Derive Devotion Digitally

If colas and coats can claim one thing in common it is this: Two of the best-known makers of each are trying to transform the historic into meteoric through the clever use of digital marketing.

In one aisle we have Coca-Cola, an American classic that in late January launched a new iteration of its popular My Coke Rewards, one of the largest loyalty programs in the packaged goods industry. The new version offers program members a second way to earn points – not through purchases, but through activities such as playing games, completing surveys and communicating through social media.

In the other aisle we have Burberry, the landmark British apparel brand whose iconic trench coat swathed Hollywood stars as well as World War I soldiers. At risk of losing its glow among young consumers, Burberry over the past several years transformed its image from stodgy to spectacular in part through several digital marketing initiatives, including Art of the Trench and Burberry Acoustic.

Both brand initiatives may appear to steer the shopper away from the store, because they engage her through her smartphone, tablet or computer, rather than directly in a retail environment. In actuality, however, such digital connections can and do encourage in-store activity, by engaging the consumer in a positive way and leaving a long-serving imprint.

WorldOfCocaCola

Let’s look first at My Coke Rewards. Its move to include digital activities in its rewards earnings model emphasizes the need for major brands to recognize that consumers see them as more than mere products. Rather, the most loyal customers view the brands they use as deliverers of experiences, said Kim Gnatt, global group director of digital marketing for Coca-Cola North America.

“Modernizing our loyalty program was essential to meeting the evolving desires and expectations of our consumers, brands and partners,” Gnatt said in an email. “We’re able to tailor users’ experiences based on the content and brands they interact with onsite, self-select within their profiles and provide at registration.”

Similarly, Burberry reinvented itself by incorporating its customers into its digital and social experiences. Its Art of the Trench project, launched in 2009, encouraged Burberry wearers to share photos of themselves donning their trenches. The concept appealed to Burberry loyalists while also attracting younger consumers who might want their 15 minutes of fame, according to a case study in Business Today. By 2012, Burberry had moved 60 percent of its marketing budget to digital.

Burberry_ArtOfTrench

Now let’s bring these efforts back into the aisles – both in-store and online.

Burberry’s digital and social endeavors contributed to some solidly buttoned-up performances. In the fiscal year ended March 2014, total sales rose 19% over fiscal 2013, to 2.3 billion pounds ($3.8 billion). In the third quarter of fiscal 2015 ended January, sales rose an additional 15%, to 604 million pounds ($939.3 million).

“We continued during the year to fuse the physical and digital to enhance the brand experience wherever the customer engages with us,” Christopher Bailey, CEO and chief creative officer of Burberry, said in a 2014 analyst call. “For example, we further leveraged data and insight to create increasingly personalized customer experiences.”

It’s a little too soon to measure the effect of My Coke Rewards on Coke’s overall performance, but North American sales rose 2%, to $5.37 billion, in the fourth quarter of 2015 – Coke’s first North American sales increase in four quarters, according to Reuters.

“It was essential that the program strive for seamless integration into the lives of members, making engagement feel more organic,” Gnatt said of the program change.

Both efforts exemplify how engagement at home – or office, or bus, or city street – can easily lead the consumer into the store. The key is beguiling her or him with an experience so personalized, so individually spot-on, that the consumer makes a place in her heart for it. Kevin Roberts at the advertising powerhouse Saatchi & Saatchi coined a term for this effect – lovemark. It means the replacement of a brand with love.

It may sound a like a lofty order for colas and coats, but Coke and Burberry are proving that delivering experiences that can be as important as delivering product.

This article originally appeared on Forbes.com, where Bryan serves as a retail contributor. You can view the original story here.

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