In 1975, Andy Warhol famously claimed:
“You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it.”
His point regarding Coke’s egalitarianism is enormously profound. Coca-Cola is definitely the world’s most democratic soft drink!
But how has The Coca-Cola Company achieved this? Their dominance can, of course, be attributed to a multitude of factors, from excellent strategy to brilliant execution. But I believe that something larger is at play here: A cause. A belief. A purpose.
Now I’m not an expert on the history of the firm nor am I a huge evangelist of their product(s), but their message, on multiple occasions, has moved me:
“We’re in the business of spreading smiles and opening happiness every day all across the world.”
There will be many who scorn this (and perhaps their cynicism is justified) but the company’s recent campaigns serve as pure testament to their aspiration. Here is just one beautiful example:
As a British Indian, I have witnessed first-hand the unfortunate acrimony between the citizens of India and Pakistan. It is clear that a peaceful solution does not lie (solely) in the domain of politics.
But Coca-Cola recently brought together these very peoples, through a truly magical medium.
Their ‘Small World Machines’ initiative, in collaboration with Leo Burnett, has touched the hearts and minds of Pakistanis and Indians worldwide. As one observes from the video, the futuristic vending machines equipped with full-length webcams, allowed shoppers to see each other, interact, touch hands, dance, trace peace signs and smile! When folks finished collaborating, the machine dispensed a free can of Coke to reward them for their efforts. During the campaign, Coke gave out 10,000 cans of soda.
Rory Sutherland, Vice Chairman of Ogilvy Group, often commentates on how advertising creates intangible/subjective value. Now Coca Cola’s staple product has not physically changed in terms of ingredients, but our experience- the user experience- has. On spotting a dusty Coke can in the fridge this afternoon, I could not help but smile.
This is game-changing. They’ve woven a story. They’ve surprised and delighted us. They didn’t intrusively push their product- in fact, the soft drink was just an after-thought! They’ve leveraged gamification not to divide, but rather, unite. They’ve seeded our subconscious with emotional affinity! And they’ve helped bring together two countries that have been at war with each other physically, verbally and psychologically for many years.
For me, a Coke will never be the same again. Here’s to “spreading smiles and opening happiness”.