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Coca-Cola’s secret formula: Innovation. Execution. Sustainability.

  • Communications
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  • Oct 14, 2016
Coca-Cola’s secret formula: Innovation. Execution. Sustainability.

Bill Schultz, President of Coca-Cola Refreshments Canada

Saint Nicholas hasn’t always resembled the Santa Claus we know today.

That’s because, in 1931, Coca-Cola helped shape the image of Santa Claus by commissioning an artist to develop advertising images featuring him. They depicted a big jolly man in a red suit with a white beard – intentionally working in Coca-Cola’s colours – and that’s how we’ve pictured him since.

That development shows the level of global influence a brand like Coca-Cola can have.

Over the last 130 years, Coca-Cola has grown into one of the world’s largest companies. And that’s due to more than the secret formula of its iconic soft drink. For the Donald L. Triggs Lecture in International Business in Toronto on September 16, Bill Schultz, President of Coca-Cola Refreshments Canada, shared the real secret formula of Coca-Cola: innovation, execution, and sustainability.

“This is the secret formula that continuously renews the business and I believe, as you think about international business, is a formula that would work for so many companies or businesses, even public-sector businesses, around the world,” he said.

Schultz explained how each element of the secret formula has contributed to Coca-Cola’s success:

Whether it’s using technology to create innovative new products, such as Simply Orange® Juice, or changing the way products are delivered to better address consumer behaviour, Schultz said the focus is on innovating the Coca-Cola brand, not the soft drink formula itself.

“When you have a product that is 130 years old and you’ve tried once before to improve it and that didn’t go very well, innovation becomes a different type of challenge,” he said. “Innovation essentially answers the questions: What am I going to sell and what way am I going to sell it?”

Schultz said execution involves two opposing elements: both being consistent with some tried and true aspects, such as the product’s recipe, but also surprising customers with small changes such as customized bottles or cans through the Share a Coke campaign.

“We’re always trying to figure out how we can break the mould a little bit – how we can surprise people, but still stay in the context of our brand character,” he said.

Whether it’s working with women entrepreneurs or replenishing the water used in finished beverages and manufacturing, Coca-Cola tries to help the communities in which it operates to be sustainable, while at the same time making the brand sustainable in those communities.

“We think doing good helps build a trusting relationship with all of our stakeholders, not just customers, and therefore builds a relationship and loyalty that’s important to us,” said Schultz.

The Donald L. Triggs Lecture in International Business, sponsored by Don Triggs, MBA ’68, serves as a tool to assist in the development of a global leadership position for Canadian-based businesses.