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Coca-Cola believes in music in ads so much it is growing its own studio to record original songs

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Typically, marketers get into music culture by working with a musician to either license a song or feature that musician in a campaign. That’s evolved in recent years, as marketers want their brands to have watercooler moments and become part of culture rather than the annoying buzz around it. Coca-Cola is looking to take it a step further.

With Coke Studio, its music platform, the beverage behemoth wants to move beyond just working with artists for advertising by creating original songs from various artists with a range of backgrounds. In recent weeks, Coke Studio rolled out the first of roughly 25 songs to be released this year through September as part of the effort. In all, 19 different artists will work on collaborations to create the songs released this year.

The program has grown since it launched in 2022. Last year, Coke Studio worked with seven artists for one song. Aside from growing the number of songs and artist partnerships, Coke Studio is also growing its music festival partnerships as well as creating digital experiences to further the musical connection for the brand.

“No doubt we’ve been leaning into music and prioritizing music more heavily in the last couple of years,” said Josh Burke, global head of music and culture marketing at Coca-Cola. “We’re looking at music more holistically than just the song in the ad. For us, we believe music is a two-way conversation. We really strive to create a music culture through our brand that enables this connection to happen authentically, leveraging artists, of course, but also by creating music experiences that make the program richer.” 

How the company does just that will continue to evolve as it works with various artists on various Coke Studio efforts. The most recent release, a new song “Be Who You Are (Real Magic)” was written and performed by Grammy-winner Jon Batiste with artists like NewJeans, J.I.D., Camilo and Cat Burns.

During the first week of its release, it appeared on 43 new music Friday Spotify playlists, noted Burke. (The campaign for “Be Who You Are (Real Magic)” was developed by WPP’s Open X, led by VMLY&R and supported by Ogilvy, EssenceMediacom and Universal Music Group.)

Overall, the Coke Studio effort is part of a shift for how the brand is looking at its marketing efforts. “We’re moving away — obviously there’s always a place for ads — but we’re moving away philosophically from ads towards experiences,” said Burke. “Music is a very rich sandbox that allows us to lean into experiences in a scaled way across different markets and different regions.”

It’s unclear how much Coca-Cola is investing in Coke Studio as Burke declined to give marketing figures or share how many people are working on it internally. However, Burke noted that the company is making a “significant investment in music” and “hoping that by us adding to music culture, investing in music and real artists that this will be something where value exchange goes beyond transaction.” 

During the first quarter of 2023, Coca-Cola spent $128.2 million on advertising, according to data from Vivvix, including paid social data from Pathmatics, which also found that Coca-Cola spent $645.4 million on advertising in 2022 and $602.4 million in 2021.

Marketers pushing to bring audiences closer to art and culture by moving outside of traditional advertising vehicles can help brands feel less traditional as well as help them foster a better connection with audiences, said Damien Peraino an executive producer at brand consultancy Prophet. That said, given the ins and outs of the music business it can be a “huge undertaking” noted Peraino adding that “Coke is a huge brand so they obviously have the resources to do it right.”

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