Data Is Central To Strategy Success

We Talk To Wes Finley, Global Operations Lead, Social Connections, Coca-Cola


Wes Finley leads the global operations team for the Coca-Cola social marketing network. He is responsible for the company’s digital media platforms, including publishing, listening, analysis, topic tracking, measurement and collaboration.  We sat down with him ahead of his presentation at the Strategic Planning Innovation Summit.

What do you think are the main qualities of a successful strategy?

A successful strategy needs to have well-defined goals and expectations before the project or campaign begins. Leaders need to avoid falling in love with flashy pitches. Instead, they should be investigating the meat of any proposal: the data. What are baseline performance expectations? How have previous campaigns in this space performed? And what metrics will identify this project as a success or a failure?

With innovative ideas, it can be difficult to find existing A/B test results or historical performance data, but this undefined area should be where experienced marketers shine. Draw from previous campaigns to outline expectations before kickoff.

How do you think the role of a strategist is changing?

I believe strategist used to be an exclusively agency held position. When brands needed guidance for campaigns or projects they reached out to agencies for assistance. While this brand/agency dynamic is still largely true, brands are bringing a lot more strategists in-house. Strategy is shifting from being a project-based role to an always on always valuable internal position.

How important is flexibility when creating new strategies?

Flexibility is extremely important. I often work with great campaigns that fail to achieve their potential because of unforeseen difficulties with execution. Large campaigns require many integrated internal and external resources to be successful. And brands don't always have full control over all these touch points. Being flexible though execution allows campaign managers to pivot and adjust to challenges. Flexibility also means that adjustments can be made based on real-time data and results.

Several years ago Coca-Cola US changed its cans from the iconic red to a silver-white design to highlight its work with Arctic Home, a charity foundation aimed at protecting polar bears. Social listening quickly identified issues with the new design, including some confusion with the Diet Coke cans. The campaign was adjusted in real-time, can designs were changed to incorporate more red, and a challenge was quickly overcome.

Have the attitudes of a new generation of workers affected how strategy is formulated or implemented?

I believe this generation of workers feel that strategy is everyone's responsibility, not just a leadership or strategist-specific role. Anyone with experience or data should feel empowered to escalate issues and make powerful decisions.

What can delegates expect from your upcoming presentation at the Strategic Planning Innovation Summit?

Technology is moving extremely fast. Large companies like Coca-Cola need to know how to invest in innovation while still focusing on ROI. My presentation will highlight work with artificial intelligence and how marketing automation will change campaign strategy in the future.

You can hear more from Wes, along with other leading senior strategy executives, at the Strategic Planning Innovation Summit, taking place in San Francisco on May 18-19.


Image courtesy of Damon Shaff/

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