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Have a Coke and a … great marketing campaign

I'd like to share a Coke with a pretty clever marketer who came up with the Coca-Cola Co.'s clever marketing campaign for the summer of 2014.

This summer, the soft drink giant has its fans – and probably even some folks that aren’t big cola drinkers – scanning the soda aisle looking for their very own bottle of Coke.

As its latest promotion the company has placed more than 1,000 names on 375 milliliter and 500 milliliter bottles of Coke, Diet Coke and Coke Zero. That’s just in the U.S.

Other nations have names more specific to their locale. For example. in South Africa you can “Share a Coke” with Ayanda or in New Zealand you can “Share a Coke” with Paora.

The company didn’t just pick out random names. According to reports, it pored over census data to make sure it was selecting monikers that reflected names of people in places around the world where Coke is sold, making sure to reflect the ethnic mix of a particular area.

Pretty cool.

The first time I saw a specially labeled bottle was a few weeks ago.

I hit the soda machine and a bottle popped out urging me to “Share a Coke with a coworker.”

No one else yet was in the office, so – sorry Coke – I drank it by myself.

It did give me a little smile, though, and I wondered what other names or categories I’d find in the soda machine.

Soon afterward, I overheard a few people giggling that the idea was “dumb,” and who did they think would choose a different bottle of soda because of the name on it?

I began doubting my judgment. Maybe it wasn’t as clever as I thought.

After all, wasn’t it the marketing team at Coca-Cola that came up with the “New Coke” debacle in the 1980s? Whether it was a misguided reformulation or a poorly implemented publicity stunt, everyone agrees that was a bad idea.

I decided to forget about it. That was until I went to visit my sister and her four kids.

As I entered their house, I saw my 11-year-old nephew bounding across the kitchen with a 2-liter bottle of Coke in his hands and a look of panic in his eyes.

“Mom!” he shouted. “We brought the wrong soda home! This one says ‘friends’ on it. Aunt Stacy and Uncle Dan are coming over; we were supposed to get the ‘family’ one.”

As my sister planted her face firmly into her palm to stifle an exhausted laugh, the siblings gathered to seriously discuss what to do about this social soda faux pas.

I assured them that I considered them all friends, as well as family, and the soda was fine.

Very real relief washed over their faces. I was loving it. (Wait, that’s the McDonald’s slogan.)

Anyway, that might have been the end of my attention to the soda that doth speak its name, until last weekend when I was picking up cat food at the pet store.

As I was checking out, a teenage woman ran up to the clerk. She had an ear-to-ear grin and a can of Coke that said “Jeff.”

“Wait, they have first names on the cans, now?” I asked.

“Yes,” she exclaimed gleefully. “And, my boss is named Jeff, and he loves Coke, so I just had to get this for him!”

OK, there’s a plus one in the sales column for the marketing team at Coke. I guess there must be new people at the helm since the 1980s.

And it didn’t end there. Soon, I saw stories and memes on social media of people buying cans of Coke with their or a friend’s name on it, or bemoaning that they couldn’t find their name.

People are paying attention. They’re talking about the promotion, and better yet they’re buying the product. That’s a win by any marketing standard.

And yes, I checked. Somewhere out there there’s a Coke with Stacy on it.

Do I want it? Oh, you KNOW I do.

I may be 45, but I never quite got over the thrill of finding something with my name on it like I did when I was a little girl.

When Stacy’s Pita Chips sent sample boxes to everyone in the U.S. named Stacy as a marketing promotion a few years ago, I went through the roof when I got mine.

You would have thought I was a 7-year-old who just found a bike license plate at Dorney Park that wasn’t spelled “StacEy.”

So … if you happen to see a can of “Stacy” Coke out there, do save it for me, will you?

I’ll be your best friend.

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