How Coca-Cola has imbibed itself into pop culture with Coke Studio

Karuna Sharma
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Coke Studio marketing

Things are about to get musical as Coke Studio India is back after a long hiatus. As the new season Coke Studio Bharat goes live, Social Samosa speaks to Arnab Roy to find out more about the brand property, how music helps brands soar, and the marketing plan for this season.

Coke Studio India, which has been dormant for eight years, is back. This time, its eyes are on the global map with roots that go deep within India. It is coming back as Coke Studio Bharat with a vision to bring regional voices to the world. 

With the new season, the brand Coca-Cola aims to target the youth. After all, GenZ is driving change in the Indian music industry. They are seeking authenticity, freedom of expression and looking for new ways to immerse themselves within the soundscape, with no language barriers. To connect with the youth, Coke Studio Bharat has associated with young artists and the music is going to be youthful. 

Team Coke Studio has done thorough research to find their diamonds in the rough. Over 50 artists from across the country, young and a few seasoned artists, have come together to create over 10 melodious tracks celebrating India’s diversity, which is curated by musician and songwriter Ankur Tiwari. 

Amplifying Coke Bharat’s reach

As it turns a new leaf, Coke Studio Bharat has also launched a film called ‘Apna Sunao,’ which aims to encourage India to share their thoughts and journeys. The film is the brainchild of Piyush Pandey, Chairman of Global Creative and Executive Chairman, Ogilvy India. 

Coke Studio Bharat’s reveal to the public will be followed by a digital-first blitz.

Speaking to Social Samosa, Arnab Roy, Vice President, Marketing Coca-Cola India, and Southwest Asia said, “It is going to be a digital-first approach. We would be using a lot of influencers to ensure that the song gets popular. This is very different than selling Coca-Cola. The music has to be authentic. If the music is not good, whatever you do is not good enough. So, the first step was to ensure that we give Ankur a very free hand and the music is true to what our vision is.” 

The video is voiced by actor Amitabh Bachchan. The thought behind the film, said Roy, was India wanting to tell its stories. 

“Tier-II and III are waiting to tell their stories. In India, you’ve got music for every season, every month and every distance you go to, there’s a new song that stands for that particular region,” said Roy. This was the brief given to CCO Sukesh Nayak-led Ogilvy team to capture India’s diversity and within that, the unifying factor - music. 

Pandey feels the latest property will make the rich Indian musical and cultural diversity, more seamless and beautiful. 

“It reminds me of the magic of "Mile Sur Mera Tumhara" in the late 80's, where I was privileged to be a part of the creative team. The magic of multiple languages and change of instrumentation, singing and people created an iconic piece. Today it's an opportunity to move the classical to the 'massical' level, where the masses around the world can enjoy the magic of Indian music. It is music from the 'heart of India, from every part of India'. Bravo, Coca-Cola India,” said Pandey at Coke Studio Bharat’s launch event.

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From food to music, Coca-Cola fizzes up in popular culture

Whether it is Coke Studio or newly popular property Coke is Cooking, Coca-Cola has tried to immerse itself in pop culture. So far, it has used music and food to connect with audiences across the globe.

Both food and music have the power to transcend borders and bring people together. It is in sync with one of the brand’s marketing values of 'celebrating togetherness.' 

Its last major campaign was seen around Diwali 2022, which was built on the same lines. Called ‘">Milke Hi Manegi Diwali,’ the campaign won a lot of hearts. It was about using technology to bring people together, who have been devoid of physical warmth due to COVID. It follows a similar pattern with its branded content. Here, too, the feeling of togetherness is at the center of its branded content, which is celebrated through music and food, which are a huge part of pop culture.  

“Coke has only survived 137 years by staying relevant to the popculture. There’s no brand that can survive which is not connected with culture. Music is probably the best way to connect with culture. As we’ve learned from other markets, there’s no other better way – when you start to think of what to do in music is to work on platforms like Coke Studio. There are other ways too. Music, for us, has been a critical part of everything from a TVC to Coke Studio. It has allowed us to build that cultural bond with consumers across India,” said Roy.  

In a diverse country like India, it is difficult to build brands and Roy said that the brand has seen outstanding results with Coke Studio.  

When it comes to food, 'Cooking with Coke' has seen success in Latin America. Coke and food is a popular format there. It was also launched in West Bengal, India in 2022 and the brand will continue to build on this year.

“As we start building our association with food, the model for us is to go local. You have to go local to celebrate it and understand it. The deeper you go, the better the connection. And cooking is going to get bigger this year. We have a lot of plans across, starting with many other cities and it is also happening in many other parts of the world,” Roy shared with Social Samosa. 

The Coke Studio platform was born in Pakistan and gradually left its imprint on the global map. It has built a community through a brilliant marketing strategy, where content supersedes the brand. It is often referred to as one of the most successful case studies in branded content. 

Sharing how branded content has become an important tool in marketing, Roy said, “The marketing model is evolving very fast. We don’t know where it is going to go. I think what’s the evolution on marketing is that you have to move out of 30-seconder communication. I believe it is going to be about building your own IPs and assets in a much bigger way. To be very honest, very few brands have clarity on this. Everybody is trying to learn. We’ve seen good results with Coke Studio, which is one of many things. So, branded-owned platforms are going to be the center of consumer marketing in the next few years for sure.”

Coke Studio Bharat: Tuning up the music of hinterlands

If the success of K-pop proves anything it is that music knows no language. This season, Coke Studio Bharat seems to be going the extra mile this time to find voices that have been lost amid the noise of commercial music. The season will put the spotlight on regional Indian instruments like Algozha, Chimta, Duff, Sarod, Sarangi, Tumbi, and Rabaab. 

The current season features artists and musicians like Amira Gill, Achint, Aditya Gadhvi, Arijit Datta, Amaan and Ayaan Ali Bangash, Ashima Mahajan, Armaan Malik, Bombay Brass, Burrah, Charan Raj, Deveshi Sahgal, Dhruv Vishwanath, Diljit Dosanjh, Donn Bhatt, Hashbass, Jasleen Royal, Kanwar Grewal, Mahan Sehgal, Mansa Pandey, Maithili Thakur & Brothers, Mohammad Muneem, Noor Mohammad, OAFF & Savera, Osho Jain, Prabhdeep, Rashmeet Kaur, Seedhe Maut, Sakur Khan & Sons, Sanjith Hegde, Shillong Chamber Choir, Tajdar Junaid. 

The idea behind roping these artists was to capture authentic and unique sounds that will unite fans from across the country. 

With this unique line-up of artists, Roy is confident that India would make it to the Grammy’s with its regional music. 

“Once the music of this country starts rising up, forget about K-Pop, there will be no music in other countries in the world that can actually stand up to us. That’s the power of music,” said Roy. 

To further build buzz for its new season, Coke Studio Bharat has put a QR code on Coca-Cola bottles that would take consumers to the Coke Studio Hub. It would also allow the audience to view the 360-degree view of selected songs, thus virtually transporting the audience inside the sets of Coke Studio through their mobile phones.

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