MARKETING ANALYSIS: K’naan, Coca-Cola’s Genius & the Song That Took Over the World, Wavin’ Flag

A week before it’s release date on May 7, 2010, I had heard Shakira’s anthem of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, “Waka Waka (It’s Time for Africa)” and I was obsessed.

I tweeted about it, I Facebooked it and I told everyone how I couldn’t stop singing it in my status on GChat. Around that time, a great PR connection named Casey, who happens to live (and is from) in South Africa, told me, while Shakira’s song was awesome, I was missing out.

“What? Why?” – I wanted to know.

“Because,” he told me, “we like ‘Wavin’ Flag.'”

It’s the anthem about ‘celebrating life‘ he had said; a people song.

Me? Social media and world music lover not knowing what this was? How? I am addicted to world news and culture.

Stunned and utterly confused, I went onto YouTube and my eyes opened to, what I now consider to be, one of the greatest songs I’ve ever heard in my entire life and probably one of the best songs ever written.

In addition to Paul the Octopus and those annoying, buzzing vuvuzelas, the 2010 FIFA World Cup will be remembered for one more thing, the emergence of a lesser-known Somali-Canadian artist named K’naan (born, Keinan Abdi Warsame).

A smash hit in over 11 countries, sung in over 20 languages and often outshining “Waka Waka,” for a time “Wavin’ Flag” took over the world. One could even go as far a to say it was the soundtrack of the world.

So much so, on his VEVO YouTube channel,  K’naan’s people had to point out that “Wavin’ Flag” was not, actually, the theme for the FIFA World Cup, as many people thought that it was.

Like a whirlwind, it was all possible thanks to a helping hand by the soft drink heavyweight, Coca-Cola, who took the two things young people around the world are obsessed with and combined them: pop music and football (soccer).

According to an article by Business Week on the Coca-Cola campaign,  music industry executives  have been making an ‘unusual pilgrimage’ to Coca-Cola’s Atlanta, GA headquarters lately.

Why?

Because they want to learn how Coca-Cola turned the song “Wavin’ Flag” into a true World Cup (and global) anthem.

It went to no.1 in 17 countries on iTunes in less than a year and has sold millions of copies.

Remember #wc2010 v #worldcup on Twitter?

The World Cup also was Twitter’s biggest driver of traffic to the platform…ever.

“They are getting on planes from New York, from U.K., from Los Angeles,” said Coke’s director of global entertainment, Joe Belliotti. “Word of mouth is a great thing in the music industry.”

Initially, all Coca-Cola wanted to do was create a World Cup song good enough to excite and entice stadiums full of footie fans to sing along too, after all, they had big plans for their campaign.

It was their largest to date (and largest World Cup campaign ever,) hitting over 160 countries around the world.

In 2006, for the FIFA World Cup in Germany Coca-Cola used 13 different advertising campaigns that proved to be excessively costly and not as effective as they would have liked.

The idea behind “Wavin’ Flag,” was to have a single theme across all nations, thus saving $45 million which was uselessly spent in 2006.

Accordingly to some analysts, it would seem that because of  “Wavin’ Flag,” Coca-Cola may have saved more that double that with revenues from sales topping well over six percent of what they were globally.

Originally, “Wavin’ Flag” was featured on K’naan February 2009 album release called “Troubadour,” with sales of 89,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Upon listening to the original track, the marketing team at Coca-Cola had liked K’naan, his multinational upbringing, “Wavin’ Flag’s” melody and hopeful chorus. But they recognized that the darker and bleak verses describing K’naan’s childhood in Somalia (“fighting to eat”) needed to be changed as it could not tie into their year-long, global campaign “Open Happiness.”

There is  nothing happy about fear, starvation, war, extreme violence or poverty.

K’naan offered to write a new version of the track with lyrics more stadium and football friendly.

The rest is history, utter marketing genius and success.

But the real win for Coke was it’s marketing strategy: the ability to tie into its brand the things that young consumers care about (football and pop music) without overtly sugar-coating it, adding some socially aware factors and creating a new level of brand extension  across multiple markets and platforms like never seen before.

When asked by Vanity Fair, to talk about “Wavin’ Flag,” Somalia and Africa on the whole, K’naan said: –

When I sing “Born to a throne/stronger than Rome/but Violent prone/poor people zone,” it says a lot about the state of the continent in general. The former glory that everyone attributes to Africa, its accomplishments, its enlightenments, and ancient traditions—that is great, but where are we now? It’s all that we’ve been, so what are we now?

(SOURCE: Vanity Fair article one and two)

They also asked him to write about the track and he said:-

When songwriters are confronted with the obesely unimaginative question regarding the favoring of their own songs, they’ll often claim that it’s hard to choose—that being a songwriter is much like being a parent, and that having a favorite song is like having a favorite child. This is not entirely out of line. I know it because I am both a songwriter and a parent. The similarities between song and child are as profound as they are, admittedly, cheesy. They could both be born out of sudden inspiration or laborious love. Songs, too, may develop sibling rivalries, depending on the attitude in which their creator views success. And, not unlike the way a parent might make an effort to champion the less accomplished child, a creator might attempt to enhance the attention on the qualities and charms of his lesser-known works. Most importantly, though, both song and child should be thought of as gifts.

This could not be more true of my song Wavin’ Flag. These days it is like the star athlete child, winning championships and making a parent very proud. Currently it holds the number one position in Billboard’s top 100 songs in Europe. It has been sung in over 20 languages and has raised more than a million dollars to benefit Haiti. Born to humility, at first it was written off as an outcast; the story of this song’s unexpected success is as farfetched as a Bollywood theme.

One such Bollywood moment happened to me recently in Johannesburg, South Africa. I was in front of Soccer City Stadium, preparing to do an interview for a Canadian television program, when the producer, finding it too windy to be directly in front of the clay-pot-looking arena, tucked us into a shielded corner. A few minutes into the interview a massive bus full of Brazilian fans pulled up behind us. They offloaded and lined up in front of the stadium, posing for a group photo. Nothing was out of the ordinary, and I imagined their colorful assembly providing more interesting visuals for the camera. Then something unexpected happened. The group of Brazilian fans suddenly broke into song, singing Wavin’ Flag. I tried to behave as a professional might, attempting to continue answering the reporter’s question. But as their voices strengthened, drowning out my own, I felt knots form in my throat. I was overcome with joy. It took me back to when I was first writing the song: how far you’ve come, I thought.

Proud too, are the siblings of Wavin’ Flag. They cheer for their star sister, aware that it’s a once-in-a-lifetime moment for her. But they’re stubborn, too—confident that when the world discovers their own melancholy moods, they too will be loved.

(SOURCE: Vanity Fair article one and two)

It’s so sad, so true and so inherently deep.

K’naan gets it. Coca-Cola gets it. (Unlike Nike.)

That’s why Casey told me it was the ‘celebrating life’ song … and now, I fully agree wit him many, many times over.

It’s his song, it’s my song — it’s a human song.

Speaking to the press on the eve of the FIFA finals, K’naan said,

“The original ‘Wavin’ Flag’… is about hope.”

Image from Suddenly Susan on FlickR

K’naan is a refreshing change from the publicity-hungry, superficial, Oompa Loompa looking celebrities and superstars that are plaguing the entertainment industry these days.

I remember reading back in June in some random Google News article that he refused to let reporters and journalists put words in his mouth and coax him into his new found, ‘celebrity.’

Rather, he stated and stated over and over again, that he was, first and foremost, a musician.

There is just something about him that you have to respect; something about him that makes your eyes go wide, you ears perk up to listen and the cogs in your brain turn.

To the naysayers that said the glory days of meaningful hip-hop was dead, K’naan is the light out of the darkness – just like his music.

Born in the Somalian capital of Mogadishu, he saw civil unrest and unearthly havoc able to rip lands and people apart first hand.

Incidentally, Coca-Cola wasn’t the first group of people to pick it up.

Earlier in 2010, the Young Artists for Haiti sang the track and raised over $1 million for the island nation after their devastating earthquake.

Original Lyrics:-

When I get older
I will be stronger
They’ll call me freedom
Just like a wavin flag
Just like a wavin flag

And then it goes back
And then it goes back
And then it goes back
Oh

Born to a throne
Stronger than rome
But violent prone
Poor people zone
But it’s my home
All I have known
Where I got grown
Streets we would roam

Out of the darkness
I came the farthest
Among the hardest (survival)
Learn form these streets
It can be bleek
Accept no defeat
Surrender, retreat

(So we strugglin’)
Fighting to eat
(And we wonderin’)
When we’ll be free
So we patiently wait
For that faithful day
It’s not far away
But for now we say

When I get older
I will be stronger
They’ll call me freedom
Just like a waving flag
(And then it goes back)
(And then it goes back)
(And then it goes back)

Ahhho ahhho ahhho

So many wars, settling scores
Bringin’ us promises leaving us poor
I heard them say love is the way
Love is the answer that’s what they say

But look how they treat us
Make us believers
We fight there battes
Then they deceive us
Try to control us
They couldn’t hold us
Cause we just move forward
Just like buffalo soldiers
(But we strugglin)
Fighting to eat
(And we wonderingg)
When we’ll be free
So we patiently wait
For that faithfully day
It’s not far away

But for now we say
When I get older
I will be stronger
They’ll call me freedom
Just like a wavin’ flag
(And then it goes back)
(And then it goes back)
(And then it goes back)

And then it goes
When I get older
I will be stronger
They’ll call me freedom just
Like a wavin’ flag
(And then it goes back)
(And then it goes back)
(And then it goes back)

Ahhhooo ahhhoooo ahhhooo

And then it goes

And than everybody will be singing it
And you and I will be singing it
And we all will be singing it
Woah woah woah

When I get older
I will be stronger
They’ll call me freedom
Just like a wavin’ flag
(And then it goes back)
(And then it goes back)
(And then it goes back)

And then it goes
When I get older
I will be stronger
They’ll call me freedom
Just like a wavin’ flag
(And then it goes back)
(And then it goes back)
(And then it goes back)

A oh a oh a oh

When I get older
When I get older
I will be stronger

Just like a wavin’ flag
Just like a wavin’ flag
Just like a wavin’ flag

Flag
Flag

Just like a wavin’ flag

Young Artists For Haiti:-

[All]
When I get older
I will be stronger
They’ll call me freedom
Just like a wavin flag

[K’naan]
Born from a throne
Older than Rome
But violent prone
Poor people zone

[Nelly Furtado]
But it’s my home
All I have known

[Sam Roberts]
Where I got grown
but now its gone

[Avril Lavigne]
Out of the darkness
in came the carnage
threatening my very survival

[Pierre Bouvier of Simple Plan]
Fractured my streets
and broke all my dreams

[Tyler Connolly of Theory of a Deadman]
Feels like defeat to wretched retreat

[All]
So we strugglin’

[Kardinal Offishall]
Fighting to eat

[All]
And we wonderin’

[Kardinal Offishall]
If we’ll be free

[Jully Black]
We cannot wait for some faithful day
it’s too far away so right I’ll say

[All – Chorus]
When I get older
I will be stronger
They’ll call me freedom
Just like a waving flag
(And then it goes back)
(And then it goes back)
(And then it goes back)

Ahhho ahhho ahhho

[Lights]
So many wars, settling scores
[Deryck Whibley of Sum 41]
All that we’ve been through
and now there is more
[Serena Ryder]
I hear them say love is the way
[Jacob Hoggard of Hedley]
Love is the answer that’s what they say
[Emily Haines]
But were not just dreamers
of broken down grievers
[Hawksley Workman]
A hand will reach us
And will not forsake us
[Drake]
This can’t control us
no it can’t hold us down
[Chin Injeti]
We gon pick it up even though we still struggling
[Pierre Lapointe]
Au nom de la survie (In the name of survival)
[all]
and we wondering
[Pierre Lapointe]
Battant pour nos vie (Fighting for our lives)

[All]
We patiently wait
for some other day
[Fefe Dobson and Esthero]
thats too far away so right now we say

[All – Chorus]

[Drake – Rapping]
Uhh – well alright
How come when the media stops covering
and there’s a little help from the government
we forget about the people still struggling
and assume that its really all love again, nahh
see we don’t have to wait for things to break apart
if you weren’t involved before it’s never too late to start
you probably think that it’s too far to even have to care
well take a look at where you live what if it happened there?
you have to know the urge to make a change lies within
and we can be the reason that they see their flag rise again

[Nikki Yanofsky & Drake]
When I get older
I will be stronger
They’ll call me freedom
Just like a wavin’ flag

[Matt Mays]
and then it goes back
[Justin Nozuka]
and then it goes back
[Nikki Yanofsky]
Then it goes back

[Chorus – All]

[Justin Bieber]
When I get older
When I get older
I will be stronger
just like a waving flag.

Coca-Cola Celebration Mix:-


Ooooooh Wooooooh, Ooooooh Wooooooh

Give me freedom, give me fire, give me reason, take me higher
See the champions, take the field now, you define us, make us feel proud
In the streets our heads are lifting, as we lose our inhibition,
Celebration, it surround us, every nations, all around us

Singing forever young, singing songs underneath that sun
Lets rejoice in the beautiful game,
And together at the end of the day.
We all say

When I get older I will be stronger
They’ll call me freedom, just like a wavin’ flag
When I get older I will be stronger
They’ll call me freedom, just like a wavin’ flag
So wave your flag, now wave your flag, now wave your flag

Oooohhh, Oooooooooh wooooohh, Oooooooooh wooooohh

Give you freedom, give you fire, give you reason, take you higher
See the champions, take the field now, you define us, make us feel proud
In the streets our heads are lifting, as we lose our inhibition,
Celebration, its around us, every nations, all around us

Singing forever young, singing songs underneath that sun
Lets rejoice in the beautiful game,
And together at the end of the day.
We all say

When I get older I will be stronger
They’ll call me freedom, just like a wavin’ flag
When I get older I will be stronger
They’ll call me freedom, just like a wavin’ flag
So wave your flag, now wave your flag, now wave your flag
Now wave your flag (4x)

Oohhoooohh Woooh Ohohooooh Wooohoooh

We all say
When I get older I will be stronger
They’ll call me freedom, just like a wavin’ flag
When I get older I will be stronger
They’ll call me freedom, just like a wavin’ flag
So wave your flag, now wave your flag, now wave your flag
Now wave your flag (4x)

Oooooh woowoo ooh Wooo ooohh ooohoh
And everybody will be singing it
Oooooh woowoo ooh Wooo ooohh ooohoh
And we all will be singing it.

Videos of Coca-Cola Celebration Versions:-

* Arab World: “Wavin’ Flag/Shagga’ Bi Alamak” by K’naan and Nancy Ajram

* Brazil: “Comemorar” by K’naan and Skank

* China: “Wavin’ Flag” (Chinese: 旗开得胜) by K’naan Jacky Cheung and Jane Zhang

* France: “Wavin’ Flag ” by K’naan and Féfé

* Greece: “Wavin’ Flag” by K’naan and Professional Sinnerz feat. Komis X

* Haiti: “Wavin’ Flag” by K’naan and MikaBen

* Hungary: “Nálunk van a labda” – anchors and sport reporters of Magyar Televízió

* India: “Wavin’ Flag” by K’naan and Jasim

* Indonesia: “Wavin’ Flag (Semangat Berkibar)” by K’naan and Ipang

* Italy: “Wavin’ Flag” by K’naan ft. Mr. Blaza and MagicEmy

* Japan: “Wavin’ Flag” (Japanese: ウェイヴィン・フラッグ) by K’naan and Ai

* Mongolia: “Wavin’ Flag” – P.Bayartsengel, D.Anu, E.Solongo and E.Soyombo

* Nigeria: “Wavin’ Flag (Naija Remix)” by K’naan and Banky W. & M.I.

* Russia: “Wavin’ Flag” by K’naan and St1m/Spez

* Spain/Latin America: “Wavin’ Flag (Bandera de Libertad)” by K’naan and David Bisbal <<< and the United States, I heard Spanish radio playing this when I went home to Miami for the US Memorial Day Holiday!

* Sri Lanka: “Wavin’ Flag/Ekama Irak Yata” by K’naan, remixed by Pradeep

* Thailand: “Wavin’ Flag” by K’naan and Tattoo Colour

* Vietnam: “Wavin’ Flag” by K’naan and PhÆ°Æ¡ng Vy

This isn’t an official remix, but Trinidadian Soca artists Machel Montano and DJ Power did their own ‘islands’ remix

… and yes, he did a slower version at the 2010 Juno Awards for Canadian television featuring Drake, Justin Bieber and Nikki Yanofsky

… and yes, there is yet, another international version, with Will.I.Am and David Guetta


**All images, unless otherwise noted, are from Coca-Cola.com and Fifa.com**

_

Sasha Muradali runs the ‘Little Pink Book’ . She holds a B.S. in Public Relations from the University of Florida with a minor in Dance (’07) and an M.A. in International Administration from the University of Miami (’08). She loves Twitter and all things social media, so you should find her @SashaHalima or get a copy of the ‘Little Pink Book’ delivered to your Kindle and don’t forget to check out the Mad Women.

Copyright © 2009-2010 Sasha H. Muradali. All Rights Reserved.

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Comments

  1. KarmicVisions says:

    I'm totally on video overload of this song but I love what you did!! I like looking at international implementations! Love the campaign just wish they were selling something that wasn't so toxic, but alas there are things worse… Thanks!!

  2. haha, very true about the drink itself.

    Maybe if it was Coca-Cola — the fruit drink, it would be far better.

    I like their Open Happiness campaign though and I really love how they
    integrated this into it.

    Thanks for your comment 🙂

  3. KarmicVisions says:

    I'm totally on video overload of this song but I love what you did!! I like looking at international implementations! Love the campaign just wish they were selling something that wasn't so toxic, but alas there are things worse… Thanks!!

  4. haha, very true about the drink itself.

    Maybe if it was Coca-Cola — the fruit drink, it would be far better.

    I like their Open Happiness campaign though and I really love how they

    integrated this into it.

    Thanks for your comment 🙂