On May 8, 2012, Coca-Cola Company celebrated its 126th anniversary. With a history that spans more than a century, it is no surprise that the brand has seen many changes since it first began. From selling nine drinks a day at Jacobs' Pharmacy in Atlanta, Georgia to selling about 19,400 beverages every second around the world, here is how the Coca-Cola Company has changed over the years and how the evolution has affected its business.
Coca-Cola might be one of the best-known brands in the world today. However, that wasn't always the case. When the company first started in 1886, it used coupons for free drinks to raise interest in the product. In 1892, marketer Asa Candler finalized the purchase of Coca-Cola from inventor Dr. John Pemberton. Candler's original advertising budget was $11,000. He used items such as calendars, soda fountain urns, painted wall signs, napkins, pencils and clocks to advertise Coca-Cola. The first celebrity to ever endorse Coca-Cola was music hall performer Hilda Clark in 1900. Since then, numerous celebrities such as Joan Crawford, Ray Charles, The Supremes, Aretha Franklin, Arnold Palmer and Joe Namath have attached themselves to the brand.
Coca-Cola purchased space in national magazines for the first time in 1904. By 1911, the company's advertising budget had skyrocketed to more than $1 million. In the 1920s, Coca-Cola added outdoor billboards and radio program sponsorships into its advertising mix. The famous Coca-Cola Christmas advertising campaigns began in 1931 with illustrations of St. Nicholas drinking Coca-Cola. The first television commercial for Coca-Cola premiered on Thanksgiving Day in 1950. One of the most memorable Coca-Cola TV commercials was 1993's "Northern Lights," which marked the debut of the Coca-Cola polar bears.
Not all of Coca-Cola's marketing ideas have been hits. In 1985, in an effort to compete with Pepsi, the company decided to change the formula for Coke for the first time in 99 years. The new drink was called "New Coke." The reaction to the new flavor was overwhelmingly negative, and Coca-Cola went back to the original recipe in just 79 days.
Joe Tripodi, chief marketing and commercial officer for Coca-Cola, said the company had more than $4 billion for its marketing budget in 2011. The major spending paid off as Coca-Cola was named Marketer of the Year in 2011 by AdAge.
Coca-Cola was only served as a fountain drink until 1899 when Candler sold the U.S. bottling rights to Benjamin F. Thomas and Joseph B. Whitehead for $1. The Coca-Cola contour bottle went into production in 1916. The unique shape of the bottle was designed to distinguish Coca-Cola from its imitators. The 6.5 ounce contour bottle was the only packaging Coca-Cola used until 1955 when the king-sized package was introduced. Consumers had the option to purchase Coke in 10-, 12-, 16- and 26-ounce bottles in addition to the standard 6.5-ounce bottle. In 1960, Coca-Cola introduced 12-ounce steel cans to make its drinks more portable.
Coca-Cola went green in 2009 with 100% recyclable bottles made partially from plant-based materials. In 2011, Coca-Cola's seasonal holiday packaging was met with disdain by consumers. For the first time, regular Coke was put in white cans that customers said looked similar to the silver Diet Coke cans. The white cans were supposed to stay on shelves until February 2012, but were discontinued in December 2011 in favor of the classic red cans. In October 2012, Coca-Cola announced that it would stop production of 6.5-ounce glass bottles because they are no longer profitable.
The trademark Coca-Cola script logo was created in 1886 by Frank M. Robinson. A red and white graphic that represents two adjacent contour bottles, called the Dynamic Ribbon Device, was added to the logo in 1970. A shock of yellow and floating bubbles were added to the white twist in 2003 as part of the Coca-Cola Real campaign. Those enhancements were removed by 2007. For its 125th birthday, the company created a special logo that featured bubbles coming out of the contour bottle.
The Bottom Line
Coca-Cola was ranked sixth on the 2012 BrandZ list of 100 Most Valuable Global Brands. Competitor Pepsi followed well behind at No. 67. For more than a century, Coca-Cola has managed to retain its popularity and keep up with the times while still remaining entrenched in nostalgia. Despite competition, Coca-Cola is still one of the most successful and well-known brands in the world.
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