A recurrent theme in post-pandemic marketing is that even as consumers remain hyper-connected through digital technology, they still long for in-person human connection, especially around mealtime. The ability of meals to bring people together drives Coca-Cola’s “A Recipe for Magic," a global platform that maintains — to paraphrase an old Coke slogan — that you can’t beat the real thing.
“A Recipe for Magic” launched in April, backed by model-TV personality Gigi Hadid and an expansive influencer effort. Since then, the effort has expanded to include tie-ups with celebrity chef Sohla El-Waylly and a Hulu hit, FX’s “The Bear,” that key in on making meals magical with good company, great food and an ice-cold Coke.
Apart from its cultural activations, the platform was cited by Coca-Cola chairman and CEO James Quincey on an earnings call as an example of how the company linked the brand to consumption occasions en route to 11% organic revenue growth in Q2 2023.
“People eat food to survive, but we need meals to live,” Ciara Dixon, senior manager for creative strategy and multicultural marketing lead at Coca-Cola, told Marketing Dive. “Meals really have this simple yet universal power to connect us to one another.”
Along with the more than 750 influencers who shared their personal recipes as part of the program’s launch, “A Recipe for Magic” enlisted high-level brand ambassadors including Hadid, Chinese actor and food enthusiast Yang Yang and Mexican food influencer Oscar Meza to collaborate on content that aired in select markets around the world and across channels including TV, social and out-of-home.
Hadid brought more than star power to the campaign. The supermodel is also a gourmand, having won “MasterChef Celebrity Showdown,” gone viral on TikTok with a spicy vodka pasta recipe and being deemed one of the most sophisticated foodies on the planet by Gordon Ramsay.
“Gigi Hadid anchored our ‘Recipe for Magic’ creative content,” Dixon explained. “We know she loves food, we know she loves Coca-Cola, she's a genuine brand fan… We worked with Gigi and her team to build her authentic ‘Recipes for Magic’ that you see reflected in our above-the-line communications.”
That food-focused ambassador strategy continued with a June “Billboard to Table” event in New York. The platform’s first scalable cultural activation turned a Coca-Cola billboard into a giant table, bringing together more than 300 people for a shared meal experience.
As part of the event, the brand partnered with El-Waylly, the restaurateur and co-host of “The Big Brunch,” to curate a menu of dishes sourced from local restaurants. The event brought to life Coke’s larger “Real Magic” ecosystem, of which “A Recipe for Magic” is a part.
“’Real Magic’ is the belief that we can find magic when we come together and shared experiences, both live and through digital connection,” Dixon said. “We like to embrace bridging the gap between ordinary and extraordinary.”
For its latest extraordinary activation, Coca-Cola teamed with streaming sensation “The Bear,” which returned in June for a second season and recently notched 13 Emmy nominations. As part of the partnership, Coke secured several seamless product placements, including during an intimate meal between Sydney (Ayo Edebiri) and her father (Robert Townsend).
Coke also hosted a private VIP screening of the show’s first three episodes for more than 140 attendees in Los Angeles. The event featured “The Bear”-inspired dishes and an intimate Q&A with select stars from the show, including actor Ebon Moss-Bachrach and celebrity chef-turned-breakout performer Matty Matheson.
“We are curating places for people to make memories, share moments of connection and experience things together, all over a meal and an ice-cold Coke,” Dixon said. “It’s been really rewarding to see how this can come to life for us.”