Innovation and Collaboration at Coca Cola It S the Real Thing

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Innovation And Collaboration At Coca Cola It s The Real Thing

Five years ago, Coca-Cola's design chief was told: "We need to do more with design. Go figure it out." Now his labors are bearing fruit

When David Butler joined Coca-Cola (KO) almost five years ago, he was given, as he tells it, "the Post-it Note mandate: We need to do more with design. Go figure it out." Butler, who had come from a gig as director of brand strategy at the interactive marketing and consulting firm Sapient, had soon written up a 30-page manifesto laying out a design strategy for the company. But if Butler, who's now vice-president for design, has made an impact at the beverage giant, it's not because of some heady proclamation. Instead it's because he has learned the most effective way to implement design strategy at a company as large and complex as Coca-Cola: avoid the word "design" as much as possible.

"If I'm at a meeting with manufacturing people, I'll say: 'How can we make the can feel colder, longer?'," he says as an example. "Or, 'How can we make the cup easier to hold?'" In other words, he talks about the benefits of smart design in a language to which those he's talking to can relate. Based on several recent brand redesigns—including the new Coke identity work that won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions awards program in June—and innovations such as an aluminum bottle and a new family of coolers, this surreptitious approach seems to be working. Butler leads a team of 60 designers—a mix of graphic and industrial designers, some poached from companies such as Apple (AAPL), Nike (NKE), MTV (VIA), Target (TGT), and Electrolux—at four centers around the world. All are focused on what Butler describes as a "fix the basics" strategy.

The Old Simplicity Gone

While there are few companies with a richer design heritage than Coca-Cola, in recent years the company seemed to…...

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