16th January 2014 | Ben

Public Relations

When a Behemoth Comes to Town

In December 2013 a lorry parked in the City centre precinct in Chichester. So what? Many of you may say – and you are right, it was just a lorry. But on the other hand it was a lorry with the power to divide opinion and inspire joy and anger in varying measure. How? It was the Coca Cola lorry – yes, the holidays are coming lorry, the iconic Christmas image used by Coca Cola to tell us that it is December.

Coke Lorry 1So what has this got to do with us? We work with the Chichester City Centre partnership, handling their marketing and PR and the arrival of this icon of capitalism became one of the highlights of the year for us due to the noise it created. It is worth saying that the lorry was in the City for just over 23 hours and was just one element of 22 days of Christmas festivities designed to encourage people into the City for shopping. However, this one event took as much PR management as some week long events and here’s why:

The Brand
Coca Cola arrived in the City a full month before the lorry when the branding and communication guidelines appeared. A hefty tome that explains how you refer to the lorry, how you advertise its arrival and where and how you can use the Coca Cola brand identity. For marketing types like us this was (sadly) quite exciting as you get to see how one of the biggest brands in the world goes about protecting their prize asset. From a client perspective we had to read and disseminate this to all those people providing official coverage for the City Centre and then manage the publicity.

Lovers and Haters
From the moment its impending arrival was announced the ‘marmite effect’ took hold. There was joy and excitement, but the more vocal elements were those displaying frustration, anger and resentment that Chichester had somehow ‘sold out’ to a global mega brand and purveyor of what some perceive as the route of all dietary evil. Managing these opinions via social media, face-to-face and in the media had to be carefully handled, but equally we needed to reflect the fact that some people were genuinely excited it was coming.

Post Mortem
23 hours and 9 minutes after it arrived, it quietly left the City centre having acted as the backdrop to thousands of photos, created 300 metre long queues and distributed over 9,000 mini cans, all without incident. Whilst respecting the views of those that opposed its presence, the images this lorry created in the City Centre could not go without mention as it clearly had provided a real buzz. Our role was to publicise this fact but also to work with the City Centre Partnership on its post-Christmas survey to gauge the economic effect of the Coca Cola lorry and whether it was simply footfall or whether retailers actually did benefit from its presence – the aim of bringing it to the city in the first place.

Moral and ethical opinions aside, love it or hate it; the marketing and PR aspect of this lorry parked in Chichester was a great experience for us and proves that we can deliver whether we are promoting a new business start-up or working with one of the best known brands in the world.

Coke Lorry 3

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