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The Story Cycle overview of Coca-Cola’s SmartDriver program:

  1. BACKSTORY: Coca-Cola launched an Ecodriving training program called SmartDriver to reduce the carbon emissions from its fleet by 3%
  2. HERO: Dedicated Coca-Cola fleet drivers
  3. STAKES: Drivers want to help their company, community and country by being accountable behind the wheel
  4. DISRUPTION: New internal initiative that is going to require them to drive differently
  5. ANTAGONISTS: Old habits die hard
  6. MENTOR: Ecodriving Solutions and Coca-Cola’s new SmartDriver program
  7. JOURNEY: Classroom and online Ecodriving Solutions training
  8. SUCCESS: Coca-Cola double its fuel savings and carbon emissions in just the first few months of the program
  9. MORAL: Pride in knowing how to have a positive impact in your job every day
  10. RITUAL: Day in and day out dedication to driving responsibly and being reward for it

Doubling the fleet’s fuel efficiency through story

How do you sell a planet-friendly driver training program to road-worn truck drivers? You tell the story from behind their steering wheels, not from your passenger seat…or from a marketing person’s perspective.

Ecodriving Solutions, an online and classroom training curriculum for fleet truck drivers, was launching its first national brand. Its first customer was Coca-Cola’s sixty thousand-plus fleet drivers. Given the divisiveness of ecological issues – from the callousness about carbon emissions to the uncertain science behind global warming to dog-paddling polar bears – we knew it might be difficult to get independent-minded truck drivers behind a program that they could view as just another sorry attempt to save the planet.

If you visit the Ecodriving Solutions website, you won’t find images of fluffy bunny rabbits, green grass, blues skies, or leafy logos. Instead, we built a brand archetype that speaks directly to the sentiments of the driver: our hero.

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We use the Story Cycle customer persona guide as an interview template to get to know our audiences. What we found from our research is that the Coca-Cola’s fleet drivers had four primary motivators which we would story to:

  1. They were committed to helping their company, Coca-Cola, tune up its operations
  2. Their independent natures inspired them to be the best and safest drivers they could be
  3. They exhibited a competitive spirit as a regional team member to outperform other company fleets, not mention their fellow drivers.
  4. They expressed a sense of national pride to do their part to help America reduce its reliance on foreign oil

We captured the insights we gleaned about the Coca-Cola fleet driver, we called him “Chuck,” and drafted a customer person. Here are some of the insights:

Chuck is that they proud to have been driving for his company for nearly ten years. He’s thirty-four years old, and his mid-West upbringing helps him appreciate what it means to work for a solid company. He’s not the “Ra-Ra” cheerleader type. Chuck is just extremely happy to be contributing to his team in his own personal way, and he knows the company appreciates his efforts.

Chuck believes in fairness, honesty, and an America that his father always said was the finest country in the world. He’s indifferent to climate change because he’s not really certain of who to believe. He finds global warming to be a political subject, rather than a real one. Chuck is saddened at America’s involvement in the Middle East but figures we have to protect our interests and abdicates to the men and women in leadership who are “smarter than he is” for such decisions.

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The fleet driver is just one of the audience personas we consider when telling the Ecodriving training story in a company. You have to consider the audience and what they care about as it relates to an initiative that might be divisive within an organization, and then tell your story from their perspective, placing them at the center of the story. For instances:

  • Fleet Managers want to reduce fuel and maintenance costs
  • Chief Training Officers can implement a proven turn-key training program without tying up their own IT and training resources
  • Human Resource Directors have a new platform that engages employees and builds camaraderie
  • Directors of Risk Management sleep better at night because the Ecodriving training results in safer drivers
  • Corporate Sustainability Officers have a “green” program they can promote to stakeholders that is totally accountable and delivers real numbers on the company’s reduced impact to the community and the planet
  • Chief Marketing Officers can use the results of Ecodriving training as a powerful way to strengthen their company’s corporate social responsibility story
  • Chief Financial Officers appreciate a nearly immediate return on their investment found in reduced fuel and maintenance costs
  • Chief Executive Officers are proud of the leadership role in their industry inherent in a program that positively impacts people, planet, and profits

It’s worth repeating that Coca-Cola double its SmartDriver goals in the first few months of launching the program because they presented a story that their fleet could buy into and prosper from. Coke focused on culture rather than compliance to make their SmartDriving program a hit.