Customization through Component-Based Builds

By Dave Rickett

The Coca-Cola Company owns hundreds of the globe’s favorite brands. Each is special and unique in its own way, offering a consumer experience like no other. The price for distinction at the The Coca-Cola Company was millions of dollars as its various brands built sites and digital promo campaigns from scratch. But that cost did not come with any real centralized control. Siloed digital experiences meant ad hoc designs and brand interpretations across markets and languages.

Rather than relinquish the customization and flexibility its worldwide brands needed or its central need to cut costs and control branding, The Coca-Cola Company turned to component-based web design. The goal was to save the business money, enforce brand standards, and streamline distribution across platforms, while maintaining each brand’s distinct personality and look. Here’s how they did it.


Branded Experiences Share the Same DNA

While each of The Coca-Cola Company’s brand sites offers a distinct consumer experience, they have common purposes:

  1. Communicate brand identity and proposition
  2. Encourage trial and brand advocacy
  3. Drive ongoing engagement through social and promotional campaigns
  4. Share basic product and nutritional information

With those four basic needs in mind, GO!, a modular, plug-and-play system, was created.

Think of it like LEGOs: Each component in GO!’s digital library can be stacked and arranged to build everything from individual pages to whole sites. Any page can use any component, and the code base is the same for all countries and brands. What changes is the visual layer. Brand teams and local markets can work with their own creative agencies to design new skins and focus on content rather than back-end development and UX. New brand-approved, security-scanned, legally-vetted sites now launch in a few short weeks rather than months.

“GO!” was developed on Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) to serve as a universal code base for all brands. By separating the design layer from the back-end code, the same components can be used over and over, styled differently according to the look and feel of each brand. Rather than building new sites from scratch, launching a new brand or campaign is just matter of ordering components in a way that meets the needs of the campaign. This approach enables marketers to focus on what they do best: Creating engaging content and inspiring campaigns.

GO! now supports more than 25 brands, 400 sites and 15 languages worldwide. Before its launch, Coca-Cola marketers spent 20% of their website budgets on content creation and 80% on code. Today, they spend the bulk of their dollars on what yields the best ROI—creating engaging digital content.


Lessons Learned 

In developing GO!, The Coca-Cola Company walked away with three key findings applicable to any company considering component-based systems:  

  1. A strong operational background is the key to success.
  2. Two-way communication between the brands and the central ops team is critical.
  3. Constant governance is required to maintain the integrity of component library.





[Author's Bio]

IfThen Senior Vice President Dave Rickett has helped brands such as Coca-Cola, The College Board, Phillips Van Heusen (PVH), HLN and ING build scalable digital solutions focused on creating efficiencies through a systematic approach to site design and content strategy.