Coke Talks Formula in New Campaign

I’m born and raised in Atlanta. As such there is only one soda for me: Coke. Anyone who has ever spent any time in Atlanta knows we are crazy for Coke and we will lose our minds on you if you try to offer us a Pepsi. So, today I’m going to tell you about a couple of new campaigns from Coke UK.

We all know the “secret formula” behind Coke is tightly guarded. I’m sure many of you remember the former Coke employees who were convicted of trying to sell the formula to Pepsi last year. (The dumbest part of that story was that they only asked for $80,000!)

Well, the soft drink giant recently discovered few people know Coke has “no added preservatives or artificial flavors,” so the brand is capitalizing on that in a new campaign called “Pemberton” after the soda’s creator. The campaign emphasizes the back story behind Coke: that it was created in 1886 by John S. Pemberton, a druggist in Atlanta, who was trying to concoct a health drink. Dr. Pemberton, selected “the best spices from around the world.” And Coke says the recipe has not changed in 122 years. (With the exception of course of New Coke – yuk!)

The core of the campaign is focused around the natural ingredients, certainly a departure for a company that never talks formula. It consists of broadcast spots and a web site where you can read about the brand’s history and explore details surrounding the ingredients of carbonated water, sugar, caramel, phosphoric acid, caffeine flavoring, and the blend of spices and vegetable extracts collected from around the world. The sites provides information like “phosphoric acid is extracted from rocks and gives Coke its tangy taste.”

An interesting part of the site is that in the Q&A section, they are allowing negatively charged questions to be displayed. For example: “Why do you aggressively market drinks containing high amounts of sugar and caffeine to children?” Answer: “We don’t market any of our products directly to children and haven’t for many years.”

The answer goes on to explain the brand’s media buys and extensive audits to ensure they are marketing responsibly. Certainly the answer is very CYA, but frankly, I am impressed they even address the issue at all as one would be tempted to only display helpful questions like, “How many brands does Coke own?”

A second strategy focuses more on the “desire” and “pleasure” aspects of the brand in a sort of Pavlovian campaign through the release of “Blipverts,” or five-second TV spots, which depict the sounds and noises associated with drinking a Coke. For example the sound of fizz, or of ice being dropped into a glass, or of a Coke being poured. This is very clever; I know just hearing the sound of a can being opened (any can) makes me want a Diet Coke. Pathetic, yes. But true, nonetheless.

My only criticism is that I’d love to see these Blipverts available as downloads for ringtones, webFX, widgets or screen sounds. It’d be pretty easy to set them up in Midi and Wav and then just post ’em up on various FX sites. There is also great potential for them to be passed around as gifts and Super Pokes on Facebook. Just a little idea for the willing; you can send my consultancy check via mail.

Overall, I seriously doubt anyone will ever truly equate “natural” with Coke. But, the campaign itself is clever enough to get people like me and the New York Times to talk about it. So, at the very least, they are getting some attention. And, now, if you’ll excuse me, all this Coke talk has made me really thirsty…I hope the vending machine isn’t out again.

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