Coca-Cola: advertising & marketing profile

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 Can there be anyone reading this who doesn't know what Coca-Cola is? It is, after all, the world's most famous, most valuable, most widely available brand. But the product has seen sales growth stall since the close of the 1990s, as worldwide consumers develop a taste for other beverages. Coke initiated a painful restructuring, and then launched its biggest-ever marketing campaign in 2001, with a new emphasis on local markets instead of global conformity. Think Local, Act Local was the new strategy; but that too was slow to deliver results. Since then the group has struggled to find new ways of lifting sales of its core product. One way has been with the steady introduction of new variants. The most successful of these in recent years has been Coke Zero Sugar, a no-calorie version of the core brand designed to be more appealing to male drinkers. It is also a big believer in high profile global sponsorships, most notably of the Olympics and FIFA football tournaments. See also the Adbrands profile of The Coca-Cola Company.

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Adbrands Company Profiles provide a detailed analysis of the history and current operations of leading advertisers, agencies and brands worldwide, and include a critical summary which identifies key strengths and weaknesses. Adbrands Account Assignments tracks account management for the world's leading brands and companies, including details of which advertising agency handles which accounts in which countries for major markets. The Adbrands Company Profile of Coca-Cola summarises the brand's history and current market position.


Coca-Cola Diet Coke


The Coca-Cola Company

Recent stories from Adbrands Weekly Update:

Adbrands Social Media 24th Sep 2018: It's rare these days to find a Coca-Cola ad that's worth a second look - how times have changed from a decade or so ago! - but here's an exception to that rule. It's no classic, mind, but this spot from McCann Sydney, made specifically for the Australian market soars above the hackneyed hard-sell cookie-cutter spots flooding the wider international market. I mean, really: "Look, here's the thing about Diet Coke. It's delicious. It makes me feel good." Who signed off on that script? Instead, this ad places the ubiquitous cola firmly in a local cultural context, and does so with charm and some decent production values. Although the 1975 vignette is a bit off: those swaying hippies bear a close resemblance to extras from The Walking Dead.

Adbrands Weekly Update 19th Jul 2018: Further changes in the evolution of the Coca-Cola family. Coke Zero - often considered one of the heroes in the soft drink's global variant portfolio - is to be phased out altogether by the end of September in Australia in favour of Coca-Cola No Sugar. The latter was first launched late last year, sitting alongside Coke Zero and other variants. While Zero retained the predominantly black branding with a red Coke logo flash, the rival product has identical branding to regular Coke, but with a discreet black "No Sugar" banner at the top of the can. Now Zero will be dropped altogether. In several other markets, Coke Zero was merely adapted to become Coke Zero Sugar. New Zealand will continue to host Coke Zero Sugar, for the time being at least.

Adbrands Social Media 20th Feb 2018: "Mural". We're not sure Coca-Cola has quite found the right way forward in its marketing just yet, despite a return to creative powerhouse Wieden & Kennedy. We've been grousing about Coke ads for the past couple of years, as a result of a creeping one-creative- approach-suits-all dullness across the drinks giant's global footprint. That had started to change, but then those Super Bowl spots this year, startling in their blandness, were a big step backwards. We'd probably love this new spot from Wieden & Kennedy (and the master animators at Psyop) if not for the fact that we're indelibly reminded of the old TBWA ad for Nissan in which graffiti murals pursue a sexy new Qashqai SUV. 

Adbrands Weekly Update 11th Jan 2018: Coca-Cola is making yet another attempt to defend continuing steep declines in sales of Diet Coke. The brand is being relaunched in North America with a new can design and a new set of new flavours, including ginger lime, feisty cherry, zesty blood orange and twisted mango. The traditional squat cans are being replaced by a tall slender design, all silver with a different coloured stripe for each flavour variant. Coca-Cola came up with the usual waffle to justify the revamp. "Throughout this relaunch journey, we wanted to be bold, think differently and be innovative in our approach," said Diet Coke NA director Rafael Acevedo. "And most importantly, we wanted to stay true to the essence of Diet Coke while recasting the brand for a new generation."

Adbrands Weekly Update 28th Sep 2017: Here's a new wrinkle to the brand endorsement circus. Coca-Cola Zero Sugar has signed up star soccer player Alex Hunter to represent its brand worldwide in a series of promotional tie-ups. Nothing unusual about that you might think, but Alex Hunter doesn't actually exist in the real world; he's a character in FIFA 18, the latest iteration of EA's long-running video game series. In one of the game's story segments, Hunter signs a deal with Coke and even makes a commercial in the style of the iconic "Mean Joe Greene" campaign from the 70s. Hunter will also rep Coke in social media, on packaging and even some out-of-home sites.

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Free for all users | see full profile for current activities: The birth of Coca-Cola is the stuff of marketing legend. The drink was invented in May 1886 in Atlanta, Georgia by Dr John S Pemberton. Conceived as a nerve tonic, the medicinal content (as well as the name) was derived from the extract of Coca leaf that the drink contained. Pemberton's bookkeeper, Frank Robinson, suggested the name, and it was he who penned the flowing script that is still the drink's logo. During its first year, sales of Coca-Cola averaged six drinks a day, adding up to total income for that year of $50. Since the year's expenses were just over $70, Dr Pemberton reported a loss. Although he was convinced that his invention would one day be a national drink, Pemberton was himself too sickly to throw himself into the business, and soon sold the formula, reportedly for just $1. Ownership of the drink passed from hand to hand until it reached drugstore clerk Asa Candler in 1891. Candler secured distribution throughout soda fountains in the United States, Canada and Mexico and offloaded the problem of production by selling bottling rights to another company. The iconic "hobbleskirt" bottle was introduced in 1916, designed to remind drinkers of a curvaceous female body, but in 1919 the business changed hands once more - for the last time - when it was purchased by a prominent Atlanta businessman, Ernest Woodruff.

For the next sixty years, the key figure in the development of Coca-Cola was Woodruff's son, John, who became president of the company in 1923. It was he who built Coca-Cola into a truly global business. Two factors were key to this. The first was an enormous commitment to advertising, particularly in the US. D'Arcy Advertising (later part of DMB&B) had been appointed in 1906, and by the 1920s and 1930s the agency had in all but name become a subsidiary of the Coca-Cola Company, its principal client. Copywriter Archie Lee devised a campaign that emphasised traditional American values, as well as happy concepts like refreshment, satisfaction, taste and purity. The original slogan "Delicious and Refreshing", was replaced with the more artful "The Pause That Refreshes" (in 1929) and "It's the Real Thing" in 1941. For a Christmas campaign in 1931, Coca-Cola reinvented Santa Claus as a fat, jolly white-bearded cherub dressed in red, with a broad belt and black long boots, fixing the modern image of the patron saint of Christmas. Previously, Santa had generally been pictured in blue or green, often tall and thin.

The second factor in John Woodruff's plan was international expansion. Woodruff later stated that a Coke should always be within an "arm's reach of desire" for any consumer. He set about establishing a network of bottling and distribution partners around the globe, initially to supply the US Army abroad during World War II, later to cater to growing demand from local consumers. But as European bottling plants grew rapidly in the post-war boom, they were increasingly approached by competitive brands, notably Pepsi-Cola. Like Coke, Pepsi saw Europe as an important growth market after the war, and had become a real competitor by the 1950s.

In 1970 Coca-Cola scored a new triumph with an ad campaign devised by McCann-Erickson, which had won the account from D'Arcy in 1955 because of its more extensive worldwide network. This commercial featured a group of multi-national teenagers assembled on a picturesque hilltop who said they'd like to teach the world to sing. It was a huge worldwide success, still one of the industry's most iconic ads. However Pepsi responded later in the decade with its own marketing coup, the Pepsi Challenge, which seemed to prove that the majority of consumers really did prefer the competitor when asked to taste both products blind.

In 1982, after experimenting unsuccessfully with low-calorie drinks TAB and Fresca, the company introduced Diet Coke, an early success which has gone on to become the world's third most popular soft drink. But Coca-Cola assisted its arch-rival considerably in 1985, when it made one of the world's most notorious marketing blunders. Thinking it could see off the Pepsi Challenge once and for all, Coca-Cola announced plans to "improve" the taste of Coke. The move was a disaster, inspiring a national outcry in the US from consumers horrified that this trusted brand was being interfered with. It quickly became obvious that Coca-Cola had failed to understand the core appeal of its main product. Consumers didn't really care too much about the taste of the drink. What they wanted was the symbolic value of Coca-Cola and the all-American values it represented. The company was forced to abandon its plans, and write off the relaunch marketing costs. Instead the original formula was reintroduced as Classic Coke.

In 1991, the company stunned the advertising industry when it pulled the creative element of its advertising account from McCann-Erickson and handed it to Edge, a dedicated unit established by talent agency CAA, and subsequently acquired by Coca-Cola. That decision did much to turn Coke into the monster brand it had become by the end of the decade. Edge developed the long-running polar bears concept and controlled the "Always" and later "Enjoy" campaigns in association with McCann. In 1995, Coke acquired a majority interest in the agency and brought it inhouse. Two years later, Coca-Cola achieved more than 1 billion servings per day for the first time. As the company proudly announced, it had taken 22 years to sell the first billion servings of Coca-Cola. Now, they were selling a billion drinks a day.

The next three years proved difficult for the company. A sudden economic downturn in emerging markets caused sales in several international markets to stall. Other problems followed. In 1998 Pepsi sued the company for its monopoly of US fast food restaurants (the so-called "fountain drinks" market). A year later, the company's European operation was thrown into turmoil after two batches of product were contaminated in separate incidents in Belgium and Holland. Although the company quickly withdrew its products, it did too little to appease inflamed national sentiments, with the result that the Belgian and French governments placed a temporary ban on all Coca-Cola products, a PR disaster which cost the company around $60m in recall costs. Other investigations were launched Belgium and Italy into the company's anti-competitive marketing practices.

With sales still flat, the group was forced to admit that its habit of using the same marketing campaign in every territory worldwide was alienating rather than converting local consumers. In 2000, Coca-Cola disbanded Edge and put its core creative account up for pitch. Interpublic was subsequently appointed to become the brand's global ad strategist, rolling out a new strategy for 2001 of "Think Local, Act Local", designed to show that Coke had not lost touch with its regional markets. This led to the launch of a massive "Life Tastes Good" campaign comprising different sets of ads, each produced in its local region, celebrating the impact of Coca-Cola on everyday life. The company's huge sponsorship programs, tied in to the FIFA World Cup and the Olympics, as well as sole sponsorship of the first Harry Potter movie, were also designed to suggest a more localised approach.

But that strategy too was beginning to tire by 2003, and Coca-Cola began looking outside the Interpublic stable for the first time in years, commissioning WPP's Red Cell Berlin Cameron to produce a distinctly different set of ads under the "Real" banner. In 2004, the group began a move back towards the concept of I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing, with an ad from the UK's Mother agency, under the banner I Wish. In a further shake-up of group marketing, the Classic Coke account for North America was shifted out of Berlin Cameron again in October 2005, and into Wieden & Kennedy. See full profile for current activities All rights reserved © Mind Advertising Ltd 1998-2018