June 14

10 Things Small Businesses Can Learn From Coca Cola

Coca Cola is a world-recognized brand that has grown over the years, and continues to be successful. Here are a few takeaways we've found from studying this beloved brand.



It might be difficult to meet someone who has never heard of Coca Cola.

As a successful global brand for decades, the company continues to attract new generations of soda fans while maintaining a solid base of older consumers.

Although it is a nonalcoholic soft drink, Coca Cola is served in all kinds of public eateries, including restaurants, bars, delis, and clubs.

It is distributed in vending machines and sold in grocery stores.

The company has held a leading position in the beverage industry for 127 years. Founder Asa Griggs Candler assumed control of the Atlanta, Georgia business in 1892.

With the turn of the twentieth century and going forward, Coca Cola continued to evolve to maintain customer interest in its products.

The company’s current estimated value is $72.1 billion with world-wide distribution.

Many attributes are responsible for leading the company through an uncertain economy and changing times.

However, it is widely believed that Coca Cola‘s success principles continue to keep the company operating profitably with no end in sight.

Here’s what small businesses can learn from such a successful company like Coca Cola.


#1. Leadership

Every successful company is supported by effective leaders. Coca Cola has faced many challenges that other businesses have not survived.

For one thing, the product is non-essential like a regular food staple that supplies required nutritional requirements.

As a snack item or recreational pleasure, the soft drink could have fallen off the radar long ago, especially in a tight economy.

But it not only survived but actually thrived to continue growing and expanding. That level of persistence and success requires courage, apparently not in short supply in this company.

A business owner now can learn from this principle that even the products that may seem less likely to succeed can do so.

Forward-looking leadership at the helm can mean the difference between staying afloat or sinking in tough times.


#2. Collaboration

Smart leaders know that a collective approach to leadership can be more productive than an individual leader.

Bringing together a pool of talent enriches leadership to more comprehensively address issues and create forward-thinking solutions.

Company leadership that shares responsibility and invites participation on key initiatives can achieve phenomenal outcomes.

A small business often depends heavily on an entrepreneur to maintain efficient operations. At first, there may be little time to creatively plan for the future.

Resources could be limited and restrict the hiring of more employees who can share the workload or contribute to long-range planning.

Make the most of your company at each stage of its development. Look for ways to work with related businesses in the community.

For example, if you start a printing business, you might be able to partner with a paper company to combine your abilities and potentially reduce costs.


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#3. Integrity

Coca Cola has not been continually rocked by scandal as some companies have. They have maintained a wholesome image and a reliable reputation.

The company has built a platform on what it means to be real.

Their marketing strategies embrace everyday people and situations, for example, at one point imprinting individual people’s names on the product’s packaging as a sales tactic, which worked.

Advertisements for Coke using scenes from holidays, seasons, and everyday life continue to strike a chord with people reminiscing about the simpler days gone by and recreational activities that families and friends celebrated together.

Mainstream appeal of this type has kept Coke products front and center of consumer interest.

A small business today can benefit from this type of approach to family-based market niches.

In a busy world struggling with ongoing stress and risks, a soothing product will be welcome by many.

The broader principle is to know your market well and to target your audience with ads and marketing campaigns that will draw them to your product.


#4. Passion

Like many corporate success stories, Coca Cola’s leadership has consistently remained dedicated to supporting the company’s growth and well being despite competition and an uncertain economy.

Uniting its employees and maintaining the customer base, the company continues to grow and change due to the passion of its leaders.

A sustained commitment to a small business is vital for survival.

The owner must be completely devoted to doing whatever it takes to maintain a market share despite shifting conditions.

Passionate belief in the company’s purpose will contribute to its continued success and adaptability.


#5. Quality

Coca Cola products mainly taste the same as they always have. There have been changes or additions, of course, such as sugar-free variations as well as added flavors like cherry Coke.

Few of its products have failed. Those that did hardly changed the market standing of the company and its other versions.

The corporation’s business leaders knew what to, and they performed it effectively for the good of the company and its customers.

Maintaining high production standards is a critical factor in a company’s success.


#6. Diversity

Over the years, Coca Cola has hired administrators from diverse backgrounds to ensure fair employment practices.

An inclusive leadership team ensures that people in various parts of the country and in different regions around the world are introduced to the products in culturally sensitive ways. More than ever today,

Coca Cola is determined to broaden its diverse employee pool and especially its leadership to make inclusivity a defining value in the way the company operates and promotes its brand.

Every company, no matter its size, should implement hiring practices that feature inclusivity.

As an equal opportunity employer, your company can enjoy the advantages of diverse mindsets to expand the company’s potential for success.

You can establish a reputation for hiring qualified minority candidates as Coca Cola does.


#7. Accountability

Sharing the goal of company responsibility to its employees and the public, each member of the company is accountable for ensuring the job is done correctly.

They are also expected to be aware of gaps, limits, or problems and address them if possible. There’s no passing the buck at Coca Cola.

Everyone is united in meeting the company’s goals, beginning with individual responsibility and personal accountability.

Business owners of smaller companies can utilize this principle to keep everyone working toward the organization’s objectives.

But that momentum should be tempered with a sense of responsibility that ensures a job well done. If mistakes are made, the employee is expected to handle them.

Honesty, diligence, and ethical conduct play a role in maintaining job accountability.

In addition, a Forbes article by Brandon Gutman titled “Coca-Cola’s Three Principles That Will Guide It Through 2020” offers additional forces that have kept the company at the top of the nonalcoholic beverage market for the past few years:


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#8. Innovation

In some ways, Coca Cola is much the same as it was when the company started in the late 1800s.

The logo, for example, has not changed significantly during that time. Other consistencies include the following:

  • Same taste
  • Family marketing themes
  • Similar packaging design and color

In other ways, however, the company has evolved in major ways to meet attract the interest and meet the needs of new generations of Coca Cola customers:

  • New flavors
  • Sugar-free and caffeine-free options
  • Varied packaging

Coca Cola has been in the public eye for more than 100 years. The brand is distinct and eminently reliable with a recognizable brand and consistent flavor.

The price point is consistent with that of soft drink competitors.

Although the advertisements usually focus on themes centered on families, friends, and communities, slight modifications have been made to include a marketing strategy to use individual names on the packaging.

In addition to a comfortable family-based theme, Coke ad campaigns have expanded to embrace a global emphasis on unity and sharing.

The takeaway value for small businesses is to study your market over time and be willing to adapt to your customers’ changing interests.

The demographics in your market niche may change. You might be able to expand your niche to a different group of people.

These changes may pertain to community, national, or global issues as can be seen in previous Coca Cola marketing campaigns.

Be aware of the big picture economically from a marketing perspective as well as the role your company will play on that evolving map.

You could still be selling products to the same customers but possibly in a new way.


#9. Creativity

No one can argue that Coca Cola is unimaginative. Despite its all-American tastes and widespread popularity, the company continues to adapt its image to changing times.

The product is basically the same as it has always been except for minor tweaks, but creative marketing has broadened the consumer base that uses Coke products.

Creativity is the lifeblood of product longevity.

While a small company’s product line may necessarily be limited, be willing to expand either the product or the marketing approach to reach prospective new customers.

Discuss new ideas for changing your marketing approach or updating your product. Creativity can breathe new life into a fledgling business.

Take a public survey or meet with local business owners for ideas on what consumers might want or need from your product.


#10. Focus

The Coca Cola company has maintained a consistent focus on its products, its brand, and its customers. Coke is a highly popular product that is not going out of style anytime soon.

The company’s leaders continue to market an enjoyable, affordable, and versatile range of Coke products that people of all ages and demographics continue to buy. Coca Cola is now what it has always been to the public.

That is because the company continues to deliver a reliable product that knows its customers.

A small business that maintains a steady focus has a good chance of building a solid customer base.

When products shift too rapidly or dramatically, customers might become confused and stop buying what you are selling because they don’t know what to expect.

Focus on developing and maintaining a specific product that will be consistently marketed to your target niche.

While creativity and innovation are beneficial and desirable, give your product a chance to take hold in the public mindset before changing it in a big way. Anchor your customer base first.


So What’s Next?

Want to learn from another super successful business? Check out our article on what we learned from studying Wal Mart.


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