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.

Brands

Coca-Cola Diet Coke

Parent

The Coca-Cola Company

Recent stories from Adbrands Weekly Update:

Adbrands Daily Update 2nd May 2019: Coca-Cola Europe has launched the flagship brand's most daring variant range to-date in the form of a set of four Signature Mixers, designed to be used in cocktails. The four products - Smoky, Spicy, Herbal and Woody - have been developed in partnership with a team of top bartenders from the UK and Spain, and are essentially Classic Coke but with the addition of subtle additional flavours that enhance dark spirits like whisky and rum. The products will be available in selected outlets across Western Europe from this month.

Adbrands Daily Update 2nd April 2019: We knew it was coming because of a legal skirmish which launched last year between Coca-Cola and its minority-owned subsidiary Monster. Now it's confirmed: Coca-Cola will launch its first Coke-branded energy drink in Europe later this month. Coca-Cola Energy is enriched with caffeine, guarana and B vitamins, and debuts in Spain and Hungary later this month in both sugar and no sugar forms. Additional countries will follow in due course. Legal arbitration is still ongoing between Coca-Cola and Monster over the launch. Under their original deal Coke transferred all its existing energy drinks to Monster and agreed not to launch any further such products. However it left one significant loophole: the agreement didn't cover Coke-branded energy drinks. Monster want a judge to arbitrate on this new launch to determine whether compensation is payable for any detrimental impact on Monster's own sales.

Adbrands Social Media 25th Feb 2019: "The Chase". Orange Vanilla Coke? Well, if you insist. You might be surprised to learn that this is apparently Coke's first completely new flavour since 2006, presumably since those weird coffee variants. However that calculation excludes all the bizarre combinations under which Diet Coke is currently being marketed, and from which classic Coke has been excluded until now. Well, we guess everyone will have to at least just try it to decide whether the experiment is justified. We hate to sound negative but both the flavour and also this spot from Wieden & Kennedy smack just a little of desperation. There was a time when W&K made superb spots for Big Red Soda but those times seem to have passed.

Adbrands Social Media 25th Jan 2019: "A Coke Is A Coke". Seems like not even the geniuses at Wieden & Kennedy can resurrect Coca-Cola's advertising. That agency has long been associated with the brand, and in the past was responsible for some superb spots. This, set to run just before Super Bowl LIII, is not one of them. The drinks company's soul-crushing emphasis on peace and inclusion messaging has sucked all the innovation out of its advertising over the course of the past five years. Supposedly the new campaign derives its inspiration from Andy Warhol, who once said "A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it." Unfortunately, Coca-Cola has chosen to make all its advertising as simplistic as that aphorism.

Adbrands Social Media 19th Nov 2018: "Christmas Rules". All the sugar that Coca-Cola has been taking out of its drinks has been poured instead into this Christmas spot from Ogilvy satellite David Sao Paulo. Your teeth will be itching with all the excess sweetness by the end. On the bright side, the film sees the return, in a slightly redesigned form, of the famous Coca-Cola polar bears, first created 25 years ago by what was then the inhouse marketing agency of talent agency CAA.

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Background

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


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