I love marketing genius and I love Coca-Cola. That’s why I’m not ashamed to own a Coca-Cola T-shirt, have a Coca-Cola glass, bottle opener, poster on my wall, hang Coca-Cola baubles on my Christmas tree and have on top of my bookshelf a Coca-Cola contoured bottle all the way from the headquarters in Atlanta. Call me what you want. It’s a drink I love and a company that can only be admired in terms of its marketing genius.
I’ve already written about their brilliant adaption to the digital marketing world but the company’s genius long predates that. I think it’s incredibly impressive that ‘I’d like to buy the world a coke’ predates ‘I’d like to teach the world to sing.’ Companies very frequently borrow melodies from popular songs for their adverts, but the fact that Coca-Cola can do it the other way round proves just how powerful they are.
And they’ve been revolutionary, too. They were the first user of coupons to promote their products, handing out hundreds to huge success when the company first moved to Atlanta. They were one of the first companies to use door to door salesmen to promote their products. Or saleswomen, should I say. When the company learnt that housewives were enjoying six-packs of coke in the house, women were sent to promote Coca-Cola bottle openers door to door. They were also the first to give corporate branded gifts to customers. And the marriage made in heaven that is sports and marketing started when Coca-Cola were the first Olympic sponsors. Atlanta later hosted the Olympics purely (some might argue) because of how powerful the company had become.
It’s so commonplace for me to see Coca-Cola product placements that nowadays I don’t even register them anymore, whilst viewing a clumsy Starbucks in the background of a dinosaur movie rather cynically. And they were one of the first companies to come up with the idea of product placement, paying for fridges in shops, provided that they stocked coke.
I’ve heard lots of stories about Coca-Cola. I’ve heard Santa clause used to be green until coca-cola turned him red for their marketing campaign. I’ve heard that the drink itself used to be green until it was changed to its modern-day colour by a new owner who made the company what it is today while its inventor died penniless (much like the McDonald’s story recently filmed starring Michael Keaton).
Some of these may have their origins in truth, some not so much, but the point is that this company’s marketing has literally passed into the stuff of legend. People believe things about it that aren’t even real. Because they’re just that good.
HG Wells said ‘advertising is legalised lying.’ I would disagree. I think advertising is akin to the law but in a different way. Much like the law, the truth is always debatable, but the verdict is defined through how well you argue your case. In the case of Coca-Cola, I happen to believe that it truly is as good as everyone says. But the fact that I think that means nothing. The fact that the best marketing department in the world does means everything.