Coca-Cola Advertising Throughout the Years



Coca-Cola Advertising Throughout the Years

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            For over a century of time, the Coca-Cola brand has become an evolutionary product within the society in which we live. From the beverage’s creation in 1886 and continuing today, Coca-Cola is beloved by consumers. Created by pharmacist John Pemberton, the beverage did not have a high rate of sales during the first year of its life. However, once entrepreneur and marketer Asa Candler joined forces with John Pemberton, the Coca-Cola product sales increased dramatically. Increase in sales were a direct result of Asa Candler’s intense marketing strategy for the product. He saw the potential in the beverage, and assured both himself and Pemberton that success was inevitable; he was right, too. By the early 1900s the Coca-Cola brand had increased in sales by nearly 4000%. It was the marketing of Asa Candler, and the brilliant recipe of John Pemberton that allowed for this success. Likewise, it is a continuation of intense marketing and a delicious product that has kept Coca-Cola a common household name throughout all these years.

            When carefully analyzing the advertisements of Coca-Cola, one trend is prevalent: the company’s ability to advertise the product as a help to society, both in good times and in bad. The first Coca-Cola advertisement to ever appear revealed the elegance of the time. Featuring Hilda Clark as the spokeswoman, the newfound company grasped the attention of viewer. Hilda was dressed in traditional 19th century attire, holding a tea glass full of Coca-Cola. By enveloping an incredibly sophisticated portrait, Coca-Cola sent an initial message to viewers that the beverage was highly desired by important people. This was the beginning of an intensive marketing strategy, focused upon the inclusion of each person within a society. Priced at five cents, the ad simply read, “Drink Coca-Cola”. And drink Coca-Cola they did. By the early 20th  century, the brand was well on its way to becoming a popular household item.

            During the 1920s, Coca-Cola shifted to the changing culture in the United States. One Coca-Cola ad features a woman. Though, instead of the long apparel, she is now dressed in a short, sleeveless dress. This change in the womanly apparel directly coincides to the changing norm of women during that era of time. The 1920s are famously recognized for the shifting acceptance of a woman’s role in society. Before this time, women were to marry at a young age, and focus solely upon raising a family. However, as clearly demonstrated within this particular Coca-Cola advertisement, the status-quo was changing at a rapid pace.

            Coca-Cola’s support of a woman’s freedom is obvious within the advertisements. The text on this advertisement reads, “The answer to thirst after play”. Featuring such a modernly dressed woman in this 1920s advertisement sends a message that advocates a woman’s right to live and do as she pleases. At this time, Coca-Cola’s price remained at a mere five cents per bottle. During this time, there was also and addition to the aforementioned, “Drink Coca-Cola” slogan. Now, the slogan reads, “Drink Coca-Cola: Delicious and Refreshing”.

            Unlike the advertisement of the 19th century, the beverage in this advertisement is not held by the woman herself. Instead, the advertisement features a man’s hand holding the beverage as the woman pines after it. This, too, is a direct indicator of Coca-Cola’s acceptance of the changing cultural trend for women during the 1920s. An acceptance of women who chased men as if relationships were a game, became more and more prevalent throughout society. This featured Coca-Cola advertisement reveals the company’s acceptance of this kind of woman. Likewise, the company sends a message to the woman of that time, that they should drink the beverage once they finish playing around.

            As time passed, the roaring twenties ended abruptly with the crash of the stock market. While that time was a low, things continued to worsen with the United State’s involvement in World War II. However, regardless of these struggling times society faced, Coca-Cola worked even harder to ensure that public that even throughout these tough times, the Coca-Cola beverage was the answer for the hurt, hardship and sadness. During the war, Coca-Cola supported the troops, and made their support known throughout the advertisements they produced.

            One witty advertisement Coca-Cola produced during the time of the war featured a white-haired man. He was holding a Coca-Cola bottle cap in his hand, and grasping it as if it were a hat. The slogan simply read, “Caps off to our fighting men”. While upon first glance this advertisement is a smart use of play-on-words, the ad itself carries much more meaning than what is gathered by a first look.

            During the time of World War II, many families were left back in the United States, in a constant state of worry and distress. Not knowing of the safety of the man that left, was constantly in the minds of those left behind. Everyone knew that the men were doing a noble thing, however, that did not take away the anguish the families of each soldier felt on a daily basis. Coca-Cola’s, “Caps off to our fighting men” marketing campaign left a powerful subliminal message within the minds of the families that were left at home.

            When a bottle is opened, the cap of the bottle is taken off. Without that step, the cap cannot be opened properly. Therefore, Coca-Cola’s strategy shows respect to the fighting soldiers of World War II, whilst simultaneously telling viewers of the pleasure that come with drinking a Coca-Cola beverage.

            The most dramatic shift that the Coca-Cola company made throughout the course of its life, is the nickname it penned upon itself. An entire advertisement campaign appeared for a couple of decades that introduced this new name into the hearts and minds of anyone who drank the beverage. At first, the name was introduced bluntly onto Coca-Cola’s advertisements. Many ads tell the readers that, “Coke means Coca-Cola”. From that point forward, the beverage company slowly made Coke the new household name.

            In a time of revolution, the Coca-Cola company did what it could to keep up with the competition. The appearance of rival company, Pepsi, meant shortening the name to make it easier to say. By doing this, the Coca-Cola company was able to, once again, stay ahead of the competition.

            The name Coke appears by itself in an ad in the 1980s. However, that is not the most important thing in this advertisement that Coke published. Rather, it was the appearance of an African American couple as the spokespeople that made this advertisement one to remember. With the life and death of many African American rights advocates, Coke was now able to include another group of people into its advertising campaigns.

            Additionally, this ad also shows the shifting culture of the American society. In this particular advertisement, the man is cooking a meal while the woman has just come home. The advertisement reads, “When your man cooks up a delicious surprise…. Have a Coke and smile. Coke adds life.”

            As the millennium came to pass, there was not an overwhelming presence of political concern, regardless of the present wars. However, society had shifted from worrying about politics and important issues, to looking at Hollywood, and becoming even more liberal in the way life was lived. Therefore, Coca-Cola did not have to appeal to a certain activist group any longer. Rather, it needed to gain the sex appeal that held such importance during this time.

            This attempt is seen within several Coke ads in the 21st century. No longer are ads forcefully sending messages about a growing culture. Instead, the focus is on creating an advertisement pleasing to the eyes. In a particular advertisement in the 21st century, the ad features a model in a bikini, nestled close to an oversized Coca-Cola bottle. The slogan is simply, “Coca-Cola, Summer as it should be”.

            Coca-Cola has always adapted to the cultural landscape that was present during a certain period of time. This is demonstrated throughout the ads which were aforementioned. From the company’s beginnings, to the household item the beverage is today, Coca-Cola has always altered itself based upon the altering of society. The world has come a far way since Coca-Cola’s first advertisement feature Hilda Clark. Many things have occurred, both good and bad. The beauty of the marketing strategy of Coca-Cola lie within its ability to change. History can be told within the Coca-Cola advertisements that have been produced over the past century. It is that ability to accommodate an ever-changing society that has allow Coca-Cola to experience the success it has.

Works Cited

Fowles, Jib. `Advertisings Fifteen Basic Appeals` Writing and reading Across the Curriculum, Ed. by Laurence Behrens and Leonard J. Rosen. 9th ed. Boston: Pearson/Longman, 2005 627-44 Print.


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