Lessons From Coca Cola’s CFO About Successfully Implementing AI into Business

In a groundbreaking partnership that transcends traditional marketing, Coca-Cola, in collaboration with OpenAI and Bain & Company, unveiled the "Create Real Magic" campaign earlier this year. This ambitious initiative not only showcased the creative prowess of 110 digital artists from around the world but also marked a strategic shift for Coca-Cola—one that explores the untapped potential of artificial intelligence. As we delve deeper into this transformative journey, we demystify the magic behind this campaign, revealing how AI is not merely a marketing accessory but a strategic asset with the power to reshape the future of business.

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Ilustration: DALL-E3

Demystifying magic behind “real magic” campaign 

Earlier this year, Coca-Cola joined forces with OpenAI and Bain & Company to establish a dedicated platform for its “Create Real Magic” campaign.

The initiative invited digital artists from across the globe to draw inspiration from Coca-Cola’s extensive archives, which were made accessible to the public. A total of 110 artists participated in this endeavor, with 30 of them earning the privilege of visiting Coca-Cola’s headquarters in Atlanta, where they took part in art workshops led by experts.

The fruits of their labor were subsequently showcased at iconic locations such as Times Square in New York and Piccadilly Circus in London.

Although this campaign was rated as successful, it wasn’t a one-time thing.

Namely, Coca-Cola’s collaboration with AI signifies a strategic shift that transcends traditional marketing campaigns. According to John Murphy, the company’s Chief Financial Officer, the newly established relationship between Coca-Cola and artificial intelligence is much broader than just a marketing campaign. It represents an opportunity to efficiently address complex business challenges, compressing the timeline and energy typically required for their resolution.

In Murphy’s words, “We look at this as an opportunity to really take any complex business challenge and compress it into a set of solutions that normally would take a lot longer and would take a lot more energy and time to deliver. We’re in the test, learn and scale mindset, but we see it as being pivotal to the ongoing evolution of how we do business,” he said in an interview for Bloomberg in April 2023.

Now, if a brand like Coca-Cola is embracing AI, does it mean it’s became an imperative in the advertising industry?

And how to implement it in a way that doesn’t compromise the authenticity of your brand?

Below we’ll share some of the most important lessons that the company’s CFO pointed out as their priorities when it comes to introducing AI into a business.

L’AI pour L’AI

In today’s tech-driven world, AI often appears as a fashionable accessory, used to showcase a brand’s modernity. However, it is essential to scrutinize whether AI is genuinely necessary and the optimal solution for specific challenges. Merely following trends does not guarantee suitability.

Many organizations may shy away from AI due to fear of the unknown or reluctance to take risks. However, artificial intelligence has firmly established its presence, making it imperative for businesses to explore its potential.

John Murphy emphasizes the need to approach AI adoption in a structured and considered way, underscoring the significance of treating AI as a strategic asset rather than an experimental novelty.

“Any new potentially disruptive technology is going to generate a fair share of controversy. It’s really important to scale it within an enterprise like ours and to have good governance, good protocols and the ability to collaborate with various stakeholders we have involved with us, both internally and externally. We’re looking at this as a bold move versus a reckless one,” Murphy believes.

And the numbers reflect this attitude.

AI transforming marketing strategies

The impact of AI on Coca-Cola’s performance is tangible. Data from April 2023, shortly after the launch of the “Create Real Magic” campaign, reveals substantial growth in the ongoing year:

  • A projected 7-8% increase in organic revenue;
  • A 4-5% boost in comparable earnings per share;
  • A significant $9.5 billion enhancement in free cash flow.

These gains primarily stem from Coca-Cola’s commitment to innovation and marketing.

“Any new exciting engagement with our consumer base is at the core of helping us create new value (…) Marketing innovation is really the engine that allows us to connect with our consumer base. We are on a journey of digitizing a lot of our interactions,” he announced.

Coca-Cola’s forward-thinking approach, evident even during the challenging conditions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, is characterized by its ability to adapt swiftly to an evolving landscape.

The company transitioned from traditional “scenario planning” to a dynamic “scenario management” approach, emphasizing a deep understanding of persistent trends and digital adaptation.

“When it comes to mapping out financial scenarios, particularly in such uncertain economic conditions, begin with a total understanding of the trends that are here to stay (…) If you’re not already thinking about how you operate in a truly digital world, and how you’re building out your capabilities to do so, you’re going to get left behind,” he concluded in an interview for CFO Dive.

In summary, Coca-Cola’s CFO offers a blueprint for successful AI integration: a blend of strategic foresight, innovation, and adaptability in the face of a changing digital landscape.

Combining AI in marketing with real-world applications

Coca-Cola’s foray into AI isn’t confined to marketing alone; it extends into real-world operations, exemplifying a holistic approach to technology integration. The company recognized that AI could serve as a transformative tool not just for amplifying brand visibility but also for streamlining its operations.

For instance, Coca-Cola has leveraged AI-driven vending machines that not only dispense beverages but also monitor inventory levels and customer preferences in real-time. This level of operational intelligence enables the company to optimize restocking schedules, reducing downtime and ensuring that consumers always find their favorite drinks available.

The result is not just increased customer satisfaction but also more efficient logistics and supply chain management.

But even more importantly, Coca-Cola’s AI journey underscores the need for businesses to view technology as a tailored tool, rather than a one-size-fits-all solution.

It’s not about replicating existing models but rather envisioning how AI can propel a business to new heights. For Coca-Cola, AI has been a means to enhance marketing precision and operational efficiency, reflecting a bespoke approach that aligns with the company’s distinctive goals and challenges.

This adaptable mindset allows businesses to harness AI’s potential to solve their specific pain points, whether it’s improving customer engagement, optimizing supply chain logistics, or enhancing product quality.

Coca-Cola’s trailblazing use of AI serves as a testament to the transformative power of technology when tailored to a business’s unique needs, ultimately setting the stage for a new era of innovation within the beverage industry.

A journalist by day and a podcaster by night. She's not writing to impress but to be understood.

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