What once began as an experiment in a pharmacist’s shop is a century later one of the world’s most recognizable brands. Coca-Cola celebrates its 127th birthday today, a feat that speaks to its global dominance of the refreshment drink market.
That iconic red and white label and distinctive cursive moniker, which has remained virtually untouched since first presented as the face of Coca-Cola in 1886, provide concrete proof of how smart branding can catapult a company to worldwide notoriety.
Throughout the course of its century-long ascendancy, Coca-Cola has also made several strategic advertising moves to forever cement its name in the public’s collective consciousness. Let’s take a look at the company’s renowned advertising history…
Making a Name for Itself
The use of famous individuals for advertising campaigns is a commonplace practice nowadays. However, it was unheard of at the turn of the 20th century, in large part because recognizable celebrities were few and far between. Coca-Cola thus was ahead of its time when it tapped performer Hilda Clark to represent the drink during its earliest marketing promotions.
In fact, the company claims the distinction of hiring the first celebrity spokesperson for any brand. The 1890s also saw the expansion of the Coca-Cola brand through other means. Owner Asa G. Candler made sure that every fountain shop carrying his product was outfitted with Coca-Cola calendars, clocks, and virtually any other piece of equipment that could be emblazoned with the brand’s name.
Unifying Two Cultural Icons
Coca-Cola secured another smart endorsement deal when they decided to use jolly old Saint Nick for their advertising posters in the 1920s. By this time, Coca-Cola was already an international name, providing its products to more than 50 countries.
Though the company initially depicted Santa Claus as a serious figure, 1931 saw artist Haddon Sundblom’s mischievous Saint Nick debut in Coca-Cola ads for a range of notable periodicals, including The New Yorker, The Saturday Evening Post, and Ladies Home Journal. The Sundblom Santa Claus has successfully transitioned into the iconic image that to this day we still identify as the big man in red.
Updating Its Brand Recognition
By the 1940s, Coca-Cola fans had given it a nickname: Coke. Though the company initially resisted this change, it eventually gave in to the will of the people. However, to ensure that its millions of customers would not mistake Coke for another brand, the company launched an extensive advertising campaign to make it perfectly clear that Coke and Coca-Cola were one in the same.
Beginning in 1941, the term Coke was used on posters, along with Sprite Boy, who became the official face for the Coke ads. For the next 15 years, Sprite Boy and Coke continued to charm millions of devoted Coca-Cola drinkers.
Suffering an Unexpected Misstep
For Coca-Cola, the sky was the limit over the next 30 years. By the mid-1980s, Coca-Cola was sold and enjoyed in more than 150 countries around the world. However, Coke’s competitors, including Pepsi, were nipping at its heels for more customers.
To solidify its spot at number one, Coca-Cola released New Coke in the spring of 1985. According to many critics and consumers, New Coke did taste better than the original Coca-Cola formula. After enjoying Coca-Cola for nearly the last 100 years, however, the public wasn’t willing to bend to the company’s new direction and demanded that it switch back to its time-tested formula.
Between the public outcry – and the company’s dip in sales – Coca-Cola reverted back to original Coke just three months later. This faux pas constitutes a rare misstep on Coca-Cola’s part to successfully anticipate the desires of the refreshment drinking public.
Embracing the Future
Over the last several decades, Coca-Cola has become synonymous with the sentiment of having fun and sharing good times with loved ones. This strong branding identification was epitomized in 1971 with the company’s hit, “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke.” Since then, the company has managed to keep the public invested in its products with advertising campaigns like 1993’s “Always Coca-Cola” that produced more than two-dozen commercials with the now infamous Coca-Cola polar bears.
The company continues to expand its global appeal with initiatives that highlight its association with happiness and satisfaction. Given that approximately 2 billion Coca-Cola products are consumed every day, all indications point to Coke’s lasting success for many more years.
We at Day2Day Printing would like to congratulate Coca-Cola on its achievements and are proud to be a part of its enduring legacy.
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