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Coca Cola Shifts Super Bowl Strategy: Is customer experience replacing traditional advertising?

Raise your hand if you tuned in to the Super Bowl for the commercials. No shame: You’re not alone (and with LIII snagging the distinction of lowest-scoring Super Bowl in the game’s history, we don’t blame you!).

You may have noticed that this year Coca-Cola took a different approach to their game day advertising. Typically an industry heavyweight with several multi-million-dollar game time spots, this year the company opted to air its commercial just before kickoff rather than during the game. 

Did Coca-Cola’s bold move bring an end to the era of dazzling Super Bowl commercials? Most likely not, but Coke did cause us to look a little harder at modern-day advertising. Would $5.25 million for a 30 second spot  be better spent on other channels for brand exposure, like customer experience?  Let’s take a look at Coca-Cola’s “Share a Coke” campaign.

According to Investopedia, the company’s "Share a Coke" 2014 summer campaign is one of the best-performing marketing campaigns in Coca-Cola's history. It traded out the company's iconic logo on 20-ounce bottles for 250 of the country's most popular names. Customers were encouraged to find bottles with names that hold a personal meaning for them and to share them with friends and family.

Customers were encouraged to share their experiences and stories online using the hashtag #ShareaCoke, generating massive amounts of content in so doing. Coca-Cola gave full creative control and brand ownership to their customers, but did so in a way that made them feel like they were starting their own social media conversations rather than actively promoting a brand.

This is exactly what premium packaging can do when done right: Inspire customers to share their positive experience on social media, generating countless dollars of “free” advertising for your brand.

Premium Packaging's Impact on Customer Experience

Maybe we’re getting ahead of ourselves: What is premium packaging? Premium packaging is more upscale than a traditional brown box and usually involves higher-quality material, colors, custom inserts or unique designs.  It goes above and beyond expectations so customers both remember the brand and think highly of it. And when customers are excited about a brand experience, they’re more likely to share it with their friends and family, value the brand higher, and ultimately become brand loyal.

Enhance Brand Awareness Through Social Engagement

Take unboxing videos. Unboxing videos, or footage of a customer opening a new product, typically self-shot and shared to a social media platform, act as excellent word-of-mouth marketing. In fact, nearly 40% of online shoppers say branded packaging makes them more likely to recommend a product to friends.  More than half of consumers have used social media to find a photo or video of something they’re thinking about buying, and 55% of consumers who have watched an unboxing video say it motivated them to purchase the product. 

Increase Perceived Product Value

Still not sold on premium packaging? We’ve got the hard numbers that may change your mind.

Pregis partnered with marketing professor Page Moreau at the University of Wisconsin to study how the unboxing experience affects customers’ perception of product value. The takeaway? Aesthetics matter.

In the study, two groups unboxed the same product packaged in different protective material. The groups had markedly different views about the quality of the product inside. The expected retail price noted by the group that had been given premium packaging was significantly higher (by a whopping 45%!), as they believed the better presentation reflected a higher-quality product.

Increase Customer Lifetime Value

Premium packaging can also convert one-time purchasers into brand loyal customers. According to a study published by DotCom Distribution, 52% of consumers become more likely to make repeat purchases if an e-retailer uses premium packaging to protect their products. That small detail of premium packaging can have a drastic impact on increasing customer lifetime value—a vital statistic to the profitability of an e-retailer.


Clearly, premium packaging plays a major role in a customer’s decision to buy from a brand. Attention to detail, like Coca-Cola’s first-name-branded cans and bottles throughout the #ShareACoke campaign, can have a significant impact on the customer’s experience, leading to social sharing, word-of-mouth marketing, and brand loyalists. And with that kind of marketing, who needs an expensive Super Bowl spot?

Looking to get started reaching your customers using premium packaging solutions? Look no further than Pregis.