March 25, 2023

Advertising: Coke and Shopping Network Unite to Sell Brand Items

The seasonal connection has taken on new meaning this month as the Coca-Cola Company has joined the home-shopping giant HSN for what is being described as the channel’s most extensive partnership with a packaged-goods marketer.

The collaboration, which began on Thursday, includes HSN’s selling merchandise not only on its cable channel but also online, on mobile devices and through social media like Twitter. More than 275 items will be available to start.

Most merchandise is devoted to the Coca-Cola Company’s flagship soft drink, Coca-Cola, while some items will carry Diet Coke logos. Products are also being based on ads, store signs, vending machines and other memorabilia.

The merchandise — in a broad assortment of categories like accessories, apparel, home décor, kitchen items and sporting goods — will be a mix of products already produced by Coca-Cola licensees and products that Coca-Cola and HSN are producing together.

Coca-Cola is returning the favor by promoting HSN on My Coke Rewards, a Web site with more than 14 million members. For instance, members can redeem rewards points for HSN merchandise at And the partnership has a charitable component, involving HSN Cares and nonprofit organizations for which the Coca-Cola Company helps raise money.

This is the first month of what is to be a multiyear deal. Although financial terms are not being disclosed, HSN has signed a licensing agreement with the Coca-Cola Company as part of the partnership. Coca-Cola and Playboy are considered to be the most prominent licensed brands outside the realms of sports and entertainment trademarks and characters like the National Football League and Mickey Mouse.

The Coca-Cola Company estimates that its licensing program is responsible for more than $1 billion in annual retail sales, at stores owned by Coca-Cola in cities like Atlanta, Las Vegas and Tokyo; at stores owned by retailers like Target and Walmart; and online, at the Coca-Cola Store Web site and Web sites operated by others like Amazon.

What began as a way to encourage customers at drugstore soda fountains to order “the pause that refreshes” has turned into a lucrative line of business.

Through licensing, “we support, extend, enhance and amplify our brand messages,” said Kate Dwyer, group director for worldwide licensing at the Coca-Cola Company in Atlanta, with demographic groups like teenagers, who are potential buyers of products in categories like “fashion, sports and technology,” and mothers, who are potential buyers of holiday products and merchandise related to eating, and entertaining, at home.

Among other recent “partnerships with big brands, big retailers,” she listed deals with Dolce Gabbana, Jack Spade and the publisher Assouline.

Her colleague, Stuart Kronauge, senior vice president for Coca-Cola trademark marketing at the Coca-Cola North America division, described the genesis of the agreement with HSN as the “unique HSN ability to tell stories” about the products it sells.

Perceptions of HSN as down market or dowdy did not deter Coca-Cola, she added, because HSN “actually has a very wide range of consumer” who buys products in higher-ticket categories like “health and beauty, jewelry and electronics.”

That the relationship is starting this month is no coincidence, Ms. Kronauge said, because “this is a peak selling season for both us and HSN.”

Bill Brand, executive vice president for programming, marketing and business development at HSN in St. Petersburg, Fla., echoed her.

“We’re introducing our customers to Coke during the holiday season, and developing a yearlong cadence,” Mr. Brand said. For instance, plans call for merchandise and charitable campaigns for occasions like Valentine’s Day, he added, with broader seasonal efforts like picnic and beach items in the summer and products for football tailgate parties in the fall.

Mr. Brand traced the agreement to a discussion with Coca-Cola executives at a retail industry conference in January about “all the licensed products that Coca-Cola sells around the world.”

“I’m not sure there’s another brand similar to Coca-Cola in this space,” he said, particularly in terms of its marketing efforts that are devoted to themes like “love, happiness, inspiration.”

HSN has previously teamed up with makers of consumer packaged goods like Kraft Foods. Kraft products were used by HSN Chef partners during shows on the channel and HSN cooking items were sold on Kraft Web sites like

The prices for the initial Coca-Cola products being offered by HSN range from $12.95 for a wall-mounted bottle opener to $499 for a bicycle to $1,200 for a vintage-style refrigerated cooler.

In addition to getting the partnership with HSN under way, Coca-Cola executives have had a busy last few weeks. They have also introduced an overhaul of the corporate Web site as well as the Coca-Cola brand campaign for Christmas 2012, which features a giant marionette version of Santa Claus.

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You’re the Boss Blog: Some Businesses Choose Not to Grow

Creating Value

Are you getting the most out of your business?

One of the biggest decisions business owners face is whether to try to expand their businesses. This may seem like a silly question: Who wouldn’t want a business to grow? But owners who choose growth can get stuck. For some, the issue is how to handle delegation. For others, it’s about raising enough capital. And for still others, it’s about learning the technical skills required to manage a growing business.

Years ago, my two-person company was transformed by an acquisition that forced me to make several changes. I immediately had to learn skills that many learn over a period of years. The acquisition caused our sales to grow to $1.5 million from $75,000 and employment to grow to more than 20 full-time workers from one part-time employee. There were more changes four years later, when we bought a company that was located out of town. Now, I not only had to manage more than 30 employees, I had to figure out how to manage a company in a different city.

During the last 30 years, I’ve come to understand that there are three types of business. Each one places burdens on its owners that are different and distinct. But the point is that a business owner has a choice: You don’t have to get swept up in growth. Here are the options:

Microbusinesses are where all start-ups begin. The vast majority of the 27 million businesses in the United States are microbusinesses. Some are start-ups, some have been in business for years and some would like to be bigger, but the owners can’t figure out how to make the leap.

Microbusinesses are often one-person shows. If the owner becomes disabled or dies, the business falls apart. The biggest challenge with a microbusiness is keeping a steady stream of income. In my case, when I had a microbusiness, I would fill vending machines, make sandwiches for our machines, order stock for our warehouse, fix vending machines when they were broken, do our bookkeeping and count the money — in other words, I was the chief cook and bottle washer.

For me, being in a microbusiness was similar to buying myself a job. And in my case, the job was mostly about filling vending machines and making sure they worked. There was no time to think strategically or act strategically. I even found it difficult to find time to make sales calls. For many microbusinesses, there just isn’t time or money to make the jump. My break came when one of our competitors went out of business and we were able to buy its assets. This catapulted me to the next level.

I think of the next largest group of businesses as traditional small businesses. These businesses usually have five to 25 employees. They are more complex in that the owners don’t do all of the direct work themselves. They have moved into a role supporting or supervising others. As with microbusinesses, many owners decide this is a good place to be and don’t want to make their business any larger.

Those owners who do want their companies to move to the next stage have to develop the ability to create capital for growth. They also have to learn tools and techniques for running a larger company. Sometimes these owners get stuck because their businesses don’t make enough money or because they haven’t learned the right skills.

When my business was in this stage, I didn’t delegate well. I often felt like a firefighter. I had people who could help but no one who could manage. If there was a problem, it always came to my attention. Actually, I wanted it that way. I was convinced that no one could do anything in the business as well as I could. I wasn’t ready or willing to let go and have others help run my company.

This was my personal roadblock. I didn’t know how to manage; I just knew how to provide good service through brute force.

Those who do move on can become a lower middle market business, which is a business that can be sold. That means the business has to be able to run for long stretches without the efforts of the owner. Businesses that create enterprise value typically have more than 25 employees and produce more than $5 million in sales per year. The United States Census Bureau says there are about 300,000 businesses in this category.

Owners of successful companies that produce enterprise value know how to act and think strategically. They have created companies that function with tactical excellence; they are not just trying to get through the day. The truly successful businesses in this class have also achieved strategic excellence. It’s when tactical excellence is joined by strategic excellence that real value is created for the owner.

Moving into the lower middle market was a very difficult transition for me. I had to learn to trust my employees, allow others to make mistakes, put together dashboards to monitor what was happening in the company and find a way to take myself out of day-to-day operations. Oh, and I almost forgot — I also had to find a way to finance the growth and additional resources that we needed.

Over the next few weeks I’ll delve more deeply into the positives and challenges that come with each of these types of business. Please feel free to share your experiences owning a business in one of these stages — or moving from one to another.

Josh Patrick is a founder and principal at Stage 2 Planning Partners, where he works with private business owners on wealth management issues.

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