19 Feb
  • By Camilla Marsh
  • Cause in

What NPO’s Can Learn From Coca-Cola

Love it or hate it, the red and white brand of thirst-quenching Coca-Cola has become known the world over. From the bright-lit supermarkets of the developed world to the dustiest cafe corners in developing countries; it doesn’t matter your age, nationality or income bracket, chances are high you’ve laid eyes and most likely lips on this mega-brand no matter where you are.

So what has made Coke such a raging success (despite its health concerns and questionable ethics) that even the poor are reaching into their pockets to buy a bottle? And what could NPOs possibly learn from this ubiquitous fizzy cool drink?

Check out this TED Talk by Melinda Gates to discover three surprising lessons NPOs can learn from Coca-Cola.


Three Lessons NPOs Can Learn From Coca-Cola

Coca-Cola serves 1.5 billion servings every single day. If Coke can reach so many all across the world, in even the most difficult to access recesses of developing countries, then there’s no excuse for NPO aid and relief not to reach every person on our planet.

As NPO’s we need to discover Coke’s secret to success and apply this innovation to the greater good. Here’s what we can learn from Coke.


1. Coca-Cola immediately feeds real-time data back into their product

Coke doesn’t wait until the conclusion of a campaign to measure its success, their team analyzes data and makes adjustments all the way through. This is a valuable lesson we as NPO’s can learn. Rather than wait to the end of a drive to measure the metrics and weigh in what worked and didn’t work, we should analyze real-time data and make changes as we go along. This increases our chances of success for current as well as projects, and illuminates the impact we are having, while it’s happening.


“Real time data turns on the lights.”


2. Coke taps into local entrepreneurial talent

When Coke came to Africa in 1928, they realised the distribution strategies they used in the developed world weren’t going to fly in Mama Africa with her gravel strip roads and far flung villages.

So, rather than thrust their American outlook onto wild and woolly Africa, they turned to local entrepreneurs to learn from them.

The mega-company noticed that locals were buying Coke in bulk and distributing bottles via carts and bicycles to hard to reach places. So Coke decided to tap into this talent by training these entrepreneurs, giving them small loans and empowering them as micro-distributors.

“Governments and NGOs need to tap into that local entrepreneurial talent as well. The locals know how to reach the very hard to serve places, their neighbours, and they know what motivates them to make change.”

We can’t come into communities with our current mindsets and expect change to happen. We have to put ourselves in the place of the people we are serving and effect change from the inside. And this change has to come from motivating campaigns of aspiration, not of avoidance.


3. Coca-Cola does incredible marketing

“Ultimately Coke’s success rests on one crucial fact – people want a Coca-Cola”

Coke associates their product with the kind of life people want to live. Through their powerful slogan “Open Happiness”, and supporting marketing strategies, the company markets their drink as an aspirational tool that’ll help consumers to level up in the lives, living the best possible lives that they can. Now, agree with this or not, we have to admit – it works, and there’s a lot NPOs can learn from this.

Coca-Cola is a global company that takes a very localized approach. Rather than assuming happiness to be a one-size-fits-all phenomenon across the globe, Coke does their market research and finds out what aspirations and struggles people have.

Similarly, as NPOs trying to affect positive change across the globe, by saving and improving lives, we  must to adapt our approach to specific locations and communities. We need to find out their specific needs, target the barriers preventing them from living happy and fulfilled lives, and figure out how can we adapt and adopt a culture-considerate  approach that will effect long and lasting change.


For more resources on effective marketing and best practices for NPOs, check out our suggested tools and readings.


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Camilla Marsh
Camilla is a curator of good cause content, nomadic writer and connoisseur of life, on a journey to help others live the best life they can. She specialises in self-development and all things happiness.

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