Monday, January 7, 2013

Coca Cola: “About Us” Evaluation by Corporate

Coca-Cola is the best-selling soft drink in the world and a giant among global brands. The Coca-Cola Company brings us not only all the variations of its eponymous cola but over 500 other brands, including Minute Maid, Barq’s, Odwalla, Fuze, Fruitopia, and Nestea. The still-secret formula for Coke was invented in 1886 by John Pemberton, a pharmacist in North Carolina, and the logo remains unchanged over 127 years – why tinker with an icon? Coca-Cola has been a publicly traded company since 1919, with 2011 revenues of $46 billion. The About Us page is here.

According to an article in The New York Times, the site was recently retooled as part of “a multimillion-dollar effort over multiyears,” according to Ashley Brown, the company’s director for digital communications. To refocus on corporate storytelling, Coca-Cola redesigned the site as an online magazine – an encouraging move at a time when the magazine form, and especially corporate magazines, are ailing.

Products/Services: C
A website can’t convey the taste of Coke, but this one does a great job of visually evoking the brand, its corporate history, and all its associations. That said, we found it difficult to settle down to read any of the content on the About Us page (“Our Company”). It has 3 menu choices at upper right, then 6 menu choices across the top, then 10 more on a scrollbar. The main part of the page has 14 sections, ranging from “Coke by the Numbers” to “Sustainability.” These are not arranged in any particular order, and sorting through them tried our patience. The overabundance of choices and lack of direction is a recurring problem on the site.

On the Heritage page, we were delighted to see vintage photos and advertisements used in the timeline. But the timeline has the flaws we’ve often seen elsewhere. Reading the accompanying text requires scrolling – a waste, given that the empty gray space around the timeline could have been used for a larger box. If we zoom to enlarge the text, the graphics pixelate. We thought perhaps the timeline was geared to smartphones, but it doesn’t function well there, either.

Accessibility: A
The Contact Us page, available in the footer, offers a “Virtual Agent” to answer questions immediately, a FAQ, and options for email, phone, snail mail, and social media: all standard, all good. We give our highest marks to whoever conceived the “Rumors” section on this page. It’s the most direct and effective approach we’ve seen to discrediting the sort of rumors that accumulate around a long-established global brand, an excellent example of honoring Commandment 4 of our “10 Commandments of About Us Pages”: Don’t take your own name in vain. Two discussions are memorable: one about the Coke for Babies ad and another on whether a mirror-image of the Coca Cola logo carries a message in Arabic.

Personality: C
On the Leadership page, each name is linked to a bone-dry, narrative version of a resume. Information on the goals, motives, or attitudes of these leaders would make the text much more interesting.

We do not recall ever seeing a mission statement as long as Coca-Cola’s, with list after list in section after section. We wonder how employees and managers can retain it, never mind apply it.

Coca Cola has a wealth of great content ... and far, far too much of it is splashed around here. Kudos on the magazine format, but it needs to be organized so that it’s less bewildering.

Does your Web site’s “About Us” section accurately convey your organization’s history and capabilities? Every two weeks we evaluate one example, grading it in three areas that are key to potential customers: Personality (Who are you?), Products/Services (What can you do for us?), and Accessibility (How can we reach you?). Contact us if you’d like to have your site evaluated—there’s no charge and no obligation.
Today’s example was chosen at random; has no ties to this company.