Branding: The Coke Theory

September 29, 2008

I try and follow Jeremy Schoemaker over at ShoeMoney and was reading the ShoeMoney Biography and loved his “Coke Theory”.  Here is the Coke theory from that biography:

Maximum and diverse revenue streams are built on fairly narrow marketing concepts that are then diversified. This is what Jeremy Schoemaker calls, “The Coke Theory. If you are already making Coke then you can make Diet Coke, Cherry Coke, etc and turn a profit on those as well. A company can achieve growth through small degrees of separation between sites, maximizing diversity within a small industry.

That is so true.  Really you can substitute almost any major brand in there.  I don’t even know how many types of M&Ms there are now but it is the same concept.  Skittles even tried it with Chocolate Skittles.  Okay, bad example.  So it may not work everywhere but it is still a great idea.

Basically the Coke Theory is all about branding.  What can we do with the brand or how can we leverage it?  That is the question(s) the companies are always asking.  But it is also perfect for a brand you may not always think of, yourself.

This can be a difficult thing to grasp.  I mean think of how most of us go through college.  If you are like me, you just want a job coming out of college and you are not too concerned with where, so long as it is in the general area of where you want to be.  I constantly struggle with balancing technical skills with strategic skills.  How narrow should I focus my development to become a stand-out in my current position?  How do I balance that with not wanting to corner myself because it is the only thing I am good at?

I have found that the Coke Theory helps strike a balance.  It is alright to focus on one thing as long as you are not afraid to branch out later on.  Take on risk!  These things will not always fall onto your plate.  You have to request them and find them; ultimately you branch out.  That is a great way to grow your skill set because even if you fail at one of these activities you still have your core skill set to fall back on.

You are a brand and a core competency is critical, but taking risks to find new activities and responsibilities is where you will really learn.  So when you get back to your job take a second and ask yourself: “What flavor of Coke can I create next?”