Coca-Cola: Marketing Done Right

coca-cola marketing

Coca-Cola is one of the most recognized brands in the world.

Originating in 1886, Coca-Cola has since gone beyond defining American culture and is produced and bottled locally in almost every country.

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How did the company become so popular?

It’s true they produce a drink that people enjoy and have bought several other drink companies to expand their variety. But Coca-Cola has always been a king in the marketing world.

What sets them apart from other companies is the memorable ad campaigns they create that seem to stick around for generations.

From cute commercials with baby polar bears to ads that feature popular athletes like Mean Joe Greene, Coca-Cola has always known how to effectively use television as a marketing tool.

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A recent Coca-Cola marketing gimmick that has elicited plenty of smiles is a viral video of a special vending machine. Coca-Cola’s “Happiness Machine” has made an appearance in many countries and is receiving incredible online recognition. The ad is sure to invoke laughter; or, at the very least, a smile. After all, the best memories are made of smiles and laughter:

Enjoy a Coke and a Smile

Most consumers will remember humorous ads: think Super Bowl commercials. How many people watch the Super Bowl just for the commercials? The answer: Plenty. It’s great entertainment.

Good commercials make us laugh, and smart marketers know laughter is memorable, making consumers more likely to remember a product and buy it.

No company has been more successful at this approach than Coca-Cola. The creative genius used in their successful Coca-Cola marketing campaigns goes back as far as 1886 and they have been creating clever ads ever since. Coca-Cola learned early how to make its product memorable.

Beautiful Women Can Sell Anything

Using beautiful women to help sell a product is not a new marketing technique. Coca-Cola was founded in 1886 by a pharmacist in Atlanta, Georgia, named John Pemberton. He sold his new concoction at a nearby pharmacy, Jacob’s Pharmacy, for just 5 cents a glass.

At that time, a beautiful woman on a poster encouraged consumers to “Drink Coca-Cola.” The beautiful girls in Coca-Cola marketing campaigns became so popular they were eventually featured in the book, “Coca-Cola Girls: An Advertising Art History” by Chris H. Beyer.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, consumers wanted ways to make lives easier and their families happier and healthier.

In 1905, a Coca-Cola ad proclaimed, “Coca-Cola Revives and Refreshes,” and in 1924, an ad that encouraged customers to not only “Refresh Yourself,” but bring an easily carried six-pack home, was also a success. It brought coke to consumer’s homes and marketing fame to Coca-Cola.

By the mid-1920s, convincing customers everyone knew how good Coca-Cola really is was easy with campaigns that proclaimed six million bottles were sold each day. Each marketing slogan Coca-Cola produced seemed to be a hit with consumers and Coke was becoming a household name through its many famous marketing slogans.

Everyone Can Relate to Coca-Cola

In 1931, even Santa Claus was known to enjoy a coke from time to time.

In one ad, Santa Claus removes his stocking cap and announces, “My hat’s off to the pause that refreshes.”

To this day, Santa Claus and Coca-Cola continue to be popular around Christmas time, his busiest time of year. It’s no wonder after delivering all those toys Santa Claus wants to relax and enjoy a refreshing drink like Coke.

You Have a Friend in Coke

Another early and successful Coca-Cola marketing marketing campaign was one that led consumers to believe Coca-Cola was for people ‘just like them.’ Coca-Cola wanted to be “Friends for Life,” according to one slogan. The idea behind the ad was the hope that consumers would want to be associated with a company who considered them a friend.

Once again, the strategy worked. The Coca-Cola company in 1948 expanded on that idea when the company came up with a new slogan: “Where There’s Coke There’s Hospitality.”

Throughout the years, the company strived to evoke the image of friendship and fellowship through its many marketing campaigns, and they largely succeeded.

Even Animals Know How to Sell

Frequently, companies have chosen to use animals to help sell their product and the results have often been successful.

Budweiser, a company that touts themselves as the “King of Beer,” uses horses as their animal of choice. The Budweiser Clydesdales and the spotted Dalmatian who proudly rides in the wagon behind them are singularly recognizable to television viewers.

These commercials are some of the most memorable on television and the Internet, especially during the Super Bowl. Some Budweiser commercials make us smile and some can make us shed a tear, but that is what makes them memorable.

With Coca-Cola, the animal of choice was the polar bear. Ads featuring polar bears were earmarked for worldwide audiences and it worked. Polar bears and Coke enjoyed immense popularity due to this genius campaign.

Along with Santa Claus, polar bears are popular around the holiday season and reappear nearly every year in new commercials during the holidays.

In 1971, Coca-Cola launched the famous ad slogan, “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke.” This campaign featured people from a variety of cultures around the world singing in unity. The commercial and overall campaign were so successful, several requests were made to record the jingle as a hit single:

When the song was finally produced, the company donated all proceeds from the recording to UNICEF, which only added to the company’s positive profile.

Famous Athletes and Performers Enjoy a Refreshing Coke

With the early success of using beautiful women, fictional characters, and animals in their ad campaigns, Coca-Cola began to use famous spokespeople in their ads. Coca-Cola first used a popular musician, Hilda Clark, in 1904.

Since then, Coca-Cola has used many famous people to promote their product, including sports stars, musicians, actors, and actresses.

If you’re looking for a simple way to advertise, how about with a vending machine like Coca-Cola’s most recent clever advertising with the fictitious happiness vending machine? In the video, the company took a common, everyday machine and used it to make millions of people happy.

The ad has been so popular in the U.S. that there is now a similar version going viral in Great Britain.

When watching the ad online, it’s hard not to have a smile on your face. It is this marketing genius that makes consumers remember your product. The best commercials and slogans make us happy — and they are utterly unforgettable.

Following the Coca-Cola Marketing Genius

Coca-Cola does appear to be the king of soft drinks and successful marketing, but there are other companies worth mentioning, too.

Real Beauty for Real Women

Dove is a company that sells beauty products for women. One of their most recent and successful ads, Dove’s Real Beauty, features real-life women. Unlike traditional beauty product ads that feature flawless, thin, beautiful models, the women in these groundbreaking ads have bodies in all shapes and sizes. When real women are featured in beauty ads, real women believe they are beautiful too and are more likely to identify with the advertising campaign.

Cute Marketing Idea

A cute little mandarin orange, known as the clementine, is no different from any other orange in taste and texture. The difference is how the company advertises the orange. Cuties, the name under which they are sold, are specifically marketed to children with its campaign that “Kids love Cuties because Cuties are made for kids.”

While parents are paying the grocery bill, kids are choosing items at the store that appeal to them. The ad appears to be successful, because despite the fact Cuties are more expensive than other oranges, sales are skyrocketing.

Learn From the Success of Coca-Cola

Companies will always find interesting ways to market their product, but they could learn a lesson or two from Coca-Cola: successful ads make a person smile and are memorable. Advertisers have to think about exactly who they want to reach and must find a way to relate to them.

One way to do this is through humor. Make them laugh. Create a jingle they can’t get out of their heads. Make them feel like a special friend. These are tactics Coca-Cola used to successfully market their soft drinks. For over 120 years, Coke has managed to be a recognizable product worldwide due to strategic and clever marketing.

The only two countries where Coke is not officially bought or sold, North Korea and Cuba, may soon find themselves enjoying a Coke and a smile. Eventually the drink’s popularity may find a way in.

Every company’s product is unique, but they have to find a way to market that uniqueness. Brainstorm with your team of advertising professionals, find an animal that no other company has used before, feature children, or do something anthropomorphic. Above all, make it unforgettable!

Follow the Coca-Cola marketing lead and find clever advertising methods or promotions that make your business stick out in customers’ minds. Embrace the spirit of fun. When fun is embraced, smiles and laughter are sure to follow.

Image: Coca-Cola/YouTube 20 Comments ▼

Brian Hughes Brian is a seasoned digital marketing expert who loves to write about subjects that help small businesses grow their brands and increase their rankings online. He accomplishes this through his agency Integrity Marketing & Consulting, which he founded in 2011.

20 Reactions
  1. Brian: How about dropping Coca-Cola cans over Cuba and North Korea, spreading refreshing ideas of free minds and free markets?

  2. beautiful women sell… how about handsome men such as in Calvin Klein’s ads/ Men’s Warehouse.
    thanks for such an enjoyable, informative article. a jingle/phrase/slogan or whatever it was called, put out by a biz that is not in biz/ not by same name, was one that was most effective and made it’s name the centerpiece so one would know what the ad was all about, sticks out in my mind as most memorable. it was just a phrase…”Bargaintown, Bargaintown, Bargaintown” !

  3. The drink is killer (in a bad way) but the marketing is killer (in a good way)

    Here in New York City, to find a restaurant who doesn’t serve Coke is rare, but there are a handful.

  4. Lol, you crack me up Alex! But yes I would agree. And yes, Coke is out there in full force.

  5. Diana Steinberg

    Creativity is central to advertising and branding. It illuminates messages about products and services that may otherwise be dull or insignificant in the minds of consumers. This generates a more memorable, longer lasting association of a brand’s features and benefits with a particular set of customer needs, clearly differentiating it from the competition. Although it has been identified that creative messages typically receive more attention and lead to positive attitudes about the products being marketed, contrary to the information above, I read that Coca-Cola had not been too successful as of late, toward making the internet a prime venue for these efforts. However, perhaps one of the most recent campaigns from the global leader in the beverage industry will serve to turn this around. A fresh promotion from Coca-Cola’s Puerto Rico division incorporates smiley-face emojis directly in the brand’s web addresses. The brand registered URLs for every emoji that expresses happiness, and keying any of these blissful icons into a mobile web browser, along with the .ws suffix, navigates users to Coca-Cola Puerto Rico’s website.

    The .ws domain is actually the suffix for Western Samoa, which is cleverly being used by Coca-Cola to represent “We smile.” In addition, going to one of these emoji domains instantly forwards users to the EmotiCoke landing page, where they can enter to win an emoji web address of their own. In my estimation, the interactively thematic attributes integrated within this campaign will be enticing to consumers, and help translate, moreover reinforce Coke’s “open happiness” signature subject.

    Essentially, happiness is at the root of Coca-Cola’s messaging, thus this campaign that uses joyful symbolism to exceed the barriers of dated language seems like an appropriate fusion. Furthermore, the vast majority of consumers, especially the younger demographic, currently visit websites via mobile devices. I believe Coca-Cola’s creative approach is wisely executed, as it plays into modern society’s infatuation and reliance on mobile technologies, to spur company growth and connect with audiences on an innovative level. In this day and age, people use emoji to communicate their feelings on a regular basis. Therefore, using them to similarly steer their way around the internet is a clever advertising technique.

  6. I was guessing that Coca Cola will lose business once the tea companies reach the world. But then, I was mistaken. The company is so good with branding and advertising and their networks are so stable that nothing can break them.

  7. Coca-Cola’s marketing is timeless and classic. They are always doing things to outdo themselves marketing wise which always amazes me. I particularly love their new freestyle machines. They stand out and are fun to use.

  8. Coke, Bud, Nike – all have great marketing.
    Love the idea of joyful symbolism that Diana explained above. Nice input from Diana