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Coke vice-president Michael Samoszeswski is shown in this June 24 photo. Mr. Samoszeswski says the company hopes Canadians will think of someone they want to share a Coke with and go find a bottle with their name. (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)
Coke vice-president Michael Samoszeswski is shown in this June 24 photo. Mr. Samoszeswski says the company hopes Canadians will think of someone they want to share a Coke with and go find a bottle with their name. (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)

What’s in a name? Sales, Coke hopes Add to ...

Whizzing by in a ribbon of red plastic, the familiar Coke labels call out to Canadians. One says Jessica. After that comes Liu, Taylor, Wu and Dylan.

They are some of the first of 27 million that will roll off Coca-Cola Ltd.’s bottling lines this summer, featuring 290 of Canada’s most popular names. On the noisy plant floor at the 650,000 square foot facility in Brampton, Ont., these personalized bottles have already started shuttling down the assembly lines, ready to hit store shelves this week.

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It’s all in service of the “Share a Coke” campaign that has rolled out in more than 50 countries around the world in the past two years, and is coming to Canada for the first time.

The campaign is part of a massive marketing project designed to bring a human touch to the brand, which is working to sell a product frequently criticized for being unhealthy.

The job of marketing soda has become more difficult. In April, Coke’s global production volumes of soda declined for the first time in 15 years, hit by people cutting down on soda and a tax on sugary beverages that was introduced in Mexico this year.

Coke’s global “Open Happiness” campaign is designed to link the product to “small moments of pleasure,” said Mike Samoszewski, vice-president of the sparkling business unit in Canada.

Examples include a “Happiness machine,” a vending machine Coke built to give out free pop, pizza and even flowers on a college campus; and “small world” machines set up in India and Pakistan encouraging people to greet each other digitally.

“Share a Coke” began in Australia in 2012, and has since rolled out in countries across the globe including New Zealand, Argentina, Turkey, Spain, and Nigeria. Last month it launched in the United States.

After a recent launch in the Northwest Europe and Nordic markets, the company says research showed consumer awareness of the campaign was well above norms for the market.

Because of the appeal of a personalized bottle or can of pop, the company has also seen unprecedented levels of activity on social media for the campaign in many markets. That’s important for marketers because consumers who decide to share a personal photo or write something about a campaign can have a greater impact on their friends than traditional advertising.

“What we hope Canadians will go do, is think of someone they want to share with and go find their name,” Mr. Samoszewski said.

In Canada, 27 million bottles of Coke, Diet Coke and Coke Zero will be produced with first names that should cover roughly 60 per cent of the population. Coke partners with a research firm to determine the best names to use in each country (here, they have had to factor in a multicultural population and the francophone market).

Those with unusual names do not have to relive childhoods searching displays of vanity key chains in vain. The company also has 76 kiosks which will travel across the country for 50 days, where people can type in a name to have it printed on a can.

Additionally, some bottles and cans will have titles such as “mom,” “friend” and “coach.”

The labels arrive from a printing company in the U.S., with the Canadian names already printed on them. (The Coke brand still appears, on the other side of the label.) Each line of bottles has a randomized sampling of names, so there will be no clusters of Johns or Pierres on a single store shelf.

The campaign will also include TV commercials, outdoor ads, digital advertising and social media promotion.

“The biggest metric of success for us, is the opportunity to share a Coke with someone,” Mr. Samoszewski said. The more moments we can create, the more value we think we’ve added to the business.”

Follow on Twitter: @susinsky

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