Coke’s ‘fail’

Coke’s recent ‘Choose Happiness’ campaign was an interesting example of how even some of the biggest (and arguably the best) marketers don’t always get things right.

This first video clearly had a lot of work, time, and money invested in it – but it didn’t really take off. It was posted on May 1, and at the time of writing had just over 450K views.

As you can see (below) its popularity was not great, with 861 ‘thumbs up’ and 475 ‘thumbs down’. As a percentage, this equates to less than 64% approval (of the people who expressed an opinion).


Compare this to the following video, same campaign, same message, posted 10 days later, that currently has over 6.5 million views!

Approval rating for the second clip was significantly better as well, with over 93% approval!


So why was the second video so much more successful? I prefer it too – and it’s not because I love babies; I actually don’t! There’s just something so contagious about a belly laugh, isn’t there?

The other thing I wondered about when comparing the two was that the subjects of the ‘Choose to Smile’ were more relatable – just babies, doing baby things. In contrast, the ‘Choose Happiness’ clip included a much broader range of ethnicities and cultures, including sub-cultures such as motorcyclists and sports fans. So perhaps that was it – while there might have been a one or two parts of the ‘Happiness’ clip that resonated with most people, I think it was unlikely that any one viewer would have been able to relate to every person and scene represented in the ad.

So how can we, as digital marketers, learn from this? I think there are a number of lessons here:

  1. Don’t try to be all things to all people. Choose a target audience and speak to them, or if you genuinely are trying to reach a variety of markets, try to find something that the majority will be able to relate to;
  2. A successful ad doesn’t have to cost a lot to create! and
  3. Even the best in the world get it wrong sometimes – as a marketer maybe you just need to be prepared to fail sometimes! See this previous post for more on how to respond when things go wrong.

What do you think? Why was the ‘Smile’ ad so much more successful? And what lessons can we learn from this?


8 thoughts on “Coke’s ‘fail’

  1. The second ad really understood what people look for on social media entertainment. I’ll confess I have searched multiple times for “baby and puppy” videos for a laugh. It seems the second ad just had more thought put into who they are targeting and what their target audience resonates with.


    1. Yes absolutely! I did wonder though, considering that all bar one of the babies was of Caucasian appearance, whether it would resonate quite as well with someone from a different ethnic or cultural background…

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Humour used well can be so much more engaging, can’t it? The first one’s very dramatic, and obviously carefully crafted, but spending lots of money clearly doesn’t buy you reach (well, not as much, anyway – by most standards 450k views would be fabulous, just not of you’re Coke!)


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