Insights on branding strategies that led Coca-Cola to become the largest beverage company of the world
"Enjoy Life", "Open Happiness", and now "Taste the Feeling", Coca-Cola has forever been a part of our lives, celebrations, and memories. In the past 133 years, this beverage company has managed to connect itself to all parts of the world - more than 200 countries and become one of the largest leading manufacturers and distributors.
And to think that it all started with a unique flavored syrup created by a pharmacist - Dr John Stith Pemberton, and then served alongside carbonated sodas at Jacobs' Pharmacy in Atlanta, Georgia since May 8, 1886…
Pemberton initially sold nine glasses a day; for five cents a glass and the sugary drink was then and still is, very refreshing and invigorating. According to the Coca-Cola company, it currently sells more than 1.9 billion servings a day. That means, one in every four people across the world is buying something from Coca-Cola every day. So, how did Coca-Cola become the world's most recognisable brand?
Let us discuss some of the distinct marketing and branding strategies that Coca-Cola has implemented through time:
Did you know? Coca-Cola catered to its increasing consumer demand with the same pricing for about 70 years. The strategy of maintaining cost leadership in a competitive market through generations aided the company in establishing a particular brand image that has lasted through decades.
The red and white logo
Pemberton's partner and bookkeeper, Frank M Robinson, was the man who came up with the beverage name "Coca‑Cola". He has also been credited for designing the trademarked, distinguished script, still used today.
The 100-year-old name and logo was created using the Spencerian script – font commonly used by accountants in 1923. This particular design distinguished the Coca-Cola brand from its competitors just like its recipe.
According to Coca-Cola, its red and white logo is recognized by 94 percent of the world's population.
In 1888, after two years of its inception, before Pemberton died, he sold his business shares to various parties, the majority belonging to Asa G Candler. Businessman Candler took Coca-Cola out of its home in Atlanta and brought the soda fountain to the rest of the US.
To meet the nation's growing demand - what was once sold at local soda fountain counters would become portable - Candler partnered with bottlers and bottled the sparkling drink. But that was not enough, there were copycats and Coca-Cola was losing market share!
To counter the copycats, Candler put out a national contest for a new bottle design. The Root Glass company entered the contest and designed the contoured bottle - the idea behind was the name "coca" and the oddly appealing shape of a cocoa pod.
The contoured bottle became a distinctive branding strategy that allowed the company to go global. Even now, along with its distinct color and logo, the Coca-Cola bottle can be easily recognized from anywhere.
Can you tell, what the brand Coca-Cola is built upon? Aside from the refreshing coke itself, we associate Coca-Cola with feeling good, happy, and relaxed. It is about sharing; it is about friends, family, culture, and community.
Rather than focusing on the product itself, the company focuses on an abstract positive concept - a connection between happiness and wellness. Every year, Coca-Cola has played a part in happy occasions around the globe - Ramadan, Eid, Christmas, festivals, or even seasonal branding - coke adverts show that coke brings people together, it helps to start conversations and spread the joy through giving Coca-Cola.
The companies that are most well-recognized possess the highest budget for their advertising and branding and Coca-Cola's nation by nation campaign approach has made it viral all over the world. Promising happiness and sharing - along with traditional advertisements, Coke brought the addition of Coke TV, social media hashtags, and coke emoji around 2017 has broadened their influential radius.
Coke's happiness campaign has been one of the key pillars of the advertising machine. Coke's share a can campaign and hugely successful de-branding tactic captured everyone's attention. Project Connect's concept was to create a bond between people and the brand.
In Australia, coke reached 42 percent of the population by swapping out branding on bottles and cans with 150 popular names - the company sold more than 250 million named bottles and cans in a country with under 23 million people. This positive reaction led to the expansion of the campaign across more than 70 countries with more than 17,000 names and titles like "Ma" or Mom, "Baba" or Dad, and more.
Besides, it targeted the most personal thing humans possess - our names, and this concept made "sharing a coke" possible as it was more about giving the coke to someone.
Coca-Cola understood the power of branding. During the early 19th century, the company publicised its logo on anything that the customer would buy - key chains, bags, clothing, kitchen supplies, and even coolers.
Coke is better when chilled and before the arrival of electric coolers, Coke was sold in round wooden barrels filled with ice with the words "Drink Coca-Cola in bottles" on the side. Later during the 1920s, they introduced a rectangular Glascock cooler that had an iced box above and racks for empty bottles below for retailers.
Coca-Cola sold 32,000 coolers by 1929 at $12.50 per piece in the first year.
Now, along with the Coca-Cola cooler, the red and white company had expanded into the collectibles product category and people could not get enough of it.
There is no denying that Coca-Cola knows a thing or two about branding - it has been consistent, which created a lasted impression with people. It has done the right things at the right time except for maybe 1985's "New Coke" which was so unpopular that it was discontinued within 79 days and the company went back to its basics and started building the original classic brand.
Coca-Cola has been relevant to the world - it makes the most out of popular culture be it the Olympics or the Super Bowl. It was able to bring the world together with one slogan (among many others) - "Open Happiness".
The campaign in 2009 was in every store, billboards, TV, and in print - the message was simple: To pause and refresh with Coco-cola; to ask yourself "Are you getting enough happiness?" Coca-Cola is an invitation to enjoy life's simple pleasures.