The company's online marketing highs and lows show an old brand learning new tricks

April 11, AdWeek

NEW YORK Back in June 2006, a now-famous Coca-Cola video began making the rounds. In it, two men made a geyser out of bottles of Diet Coke and Mentos candies. Coke representatives were not pleased.

Later, another Coke-themed video appeared, this time from France, showing young men throwing cans of the soda into the garbage from impossible angles. It was a neat trick, entertaining enough to draw millions of views on YouTube. But this time around, rather than wringing their hands over their brand literally being thrown into the trash, Coke rushed to embrace the consumer-generated content. It even collaborated with the Lyon-based youth to make another video.

"The biggest takeaway [from the Diet Coke-Mentos video] was consumers own our brands," said Carol Kruse, vp of global interactive marketing at Coke. "We had absolutely nothing to do with it, but we were the beneficiaries. [We] needed to embrace that."

The schizophrenic responses show the uncertain embrace Coke's made of social media as it tries to translate its over 50 years of success in the traditional marketing world to the new terrain. The pitfalls the company has faced and concessions it's made highlight the challenges faced by big brands navigating the new marketing playbook.

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