Coca-Cola is currently the most valuable non-tech brand in the world, currently valued at $87 billion. It is estimated that 2 billion servings of a Coke brand are sold daily in about 200 countries and each year about 110 billion coke plastic bottles are produced. That’s a great feat!

So how did Coca-Cola grow to become a giant company that we have had no other choice but to love?


Short history

One thing you should know was coke was not initially intended to be a beverage. It was produced by Dr John S. Pemberton in 1886, a Pharmacist who wanted to produce a pain-killer, a headache remedy to be precise and he accidentally produced a syrup which relieved exhaustion & indigestion and also a delicious tasting beverage that we now call Coca-Cola. Of course, Pemberton was initially confused as to what to do with his newly found drug-cum-beverage, he produced more while stating the dual advantage of the now famous drink in advertising media.

However, 2 years after discovering coke, Pemberton died but prior to his death, he sold portions of his company to various parties with the majority of interests sold to Asa G. Candler which we would talk more about later. Candler was the one who sky-rocketed Coca-Cola’s brand.

One question which would have kept ringing in people’s minds is “how did Coke continue to be relevant through the years?”


Coca-Cola’s ad budget

Let’s take a look at the marketing budget of Coca-Cola company. In the last 17 years, Coca-Cola company has spent an average of 40 billion on advertising(source: cheshnotes.com). Coca-Cola never jokes with advertising and continue to spend billions each year on advertising. They also try to beat off competition by outspending them in adverts, last year alone Coca-Cola spent a total of $3.96 on advertisement compared to their closest rivals Pepsi co. at $2.4 billion(source: cheshnotes.com)

But is that really why they have managed to remain relevant? Big ad budget? Maye maybe not

Coca-Cola company are kings of marketing and there are a thousand lessons to learn from them.


Coca-Cola’s marketing strategy

Initially, they began sales at soda fountains. Then(19th century) soda fountains were the big thing, people would normally gather at soda fountains to discuss issues just like people do at newspaper stands. Pemberton would take his syrup to the soda fountains to sell, they spent about $74 on advertising in their first year, the response was slow however and they only got back about $50 in sales.

Not until about 3 years later did Coca-Cola begin to experience growth under the watch of Asa Candler. In 1892, Coca-Cola started with a promotional campaign that included giving out coupons of code for a free sample of coke. The campaign was so successful, it took them just 3 years to enter every state in the USA and soon they had crossed the Northern border to penetrate the Canadian market. Trying out samples of new products seem normal now but there was nothing like such at that time.  It was seen as foolish to give out free samples but Candler’s strong belief in his product made him try it out and it was massively successful.

In 1929, Candler decided to ditch the syrup side of coke and instead focused on the soda side. One mistake he however made was to limit Coca-Cola to the soda fountains. At that time, private companies were allowed to mix the coke product, bottle them for as low and $1 and then resell them. This caused so many look-alike products to surface including “Pepsi-Cola”. In a bid to tackle this issue, Candler proposed a unique coke bottle which stood out from other caricature soda brands. The bottle design was so unique it was very easy to be distinguished by consumers. The coke bottle became so iconic in popular culture.


Woodruff’s take-over

Asa Candler soon retired and passed down Coca-Cola to Robert Woodruff, Woodrough was responsible for streamlining the coke brand and ensuring it tasted the same everywhere. Woodruff had a massive challenge at his hands, one of which was World War II but as expected of him, he overcame. During World War II, he ensured all US soldiers were able to get coke even for as little as 5 cents, they set bottling camps around Europe and Northern Africa so as to make a little revenue. However, when fighting began and trade embargoes were set in place, they found it extremely difficult to produce more coke beverages. They were forced to make the best use of their available resources which included apple left-over from juicing and leftover milk from milk production, this new concoction was what birth the Fanta beverage.


The Pepsi challenge

Another challenge Coca-Cola had to deal with was Pepsi, in the 1950s and 60s when Pepsi had already begun to gain grounds especially in Europe and was almost on the verge of displacing Coca-Cola in the European market. A Pepsi Challenge was run where consumers partook of a blind test where they had to pick which of the beverage tasted better in Pepsi and Coke. The majority picked Pepsi to taste better than Coke and then the Pepsi Challenge took off all across America.  That scenario was then tagged the “Cola Wars”. Coke’s first step to tackle this issue was to introduce other products in a bid to beat Pepsi, they introduced “Hi-C”, “Minute Maid”, “Tab”, “Sprite” and “Diet Sprite”.


Roberto Goizueta’s take over

At the start of the 19th century, Roberto Goizueta took over and he brought in a new era. At his time of taking over,  Coca-Cola had taken about 45% of the soft drink market but they had less than 2% of the entire liquid beverage market share, getting a better share was the new target. Roberto also made a daring move by introducing the diet Coke brand, something other heads refrained from for the fear of ruining the classic coke taste. The diet Coke was a success and soon became the world’s number 3 soft drink.


New Coke formula

Roberto wasn’t done yet, he set up secret labs to find the right Coke formula that would beat the taste of their rivals’ drink, Pepsi and also be an upgrade to the original coke taste. The formula was finally found in 1985. It was put to test in 200 000 tasters across the country and most of the testers preferred the new coke taste to Pepsi’s and even the original. Amazing right?

Surprisingly, when Coke finally changed the taste of Coke, consumers were rather displeased and the Coca-Cola brand received massive criticism nation-wide and was forced to revert to the old formula. This didn’t make Roberto Goizueta any less a success, he helped grow the Coke brand massively, by the time of his death in 1997, he had taken Coca-Cola’s market share from $4.7 billion to $147 billion.


Coca-Cola’s captivating campaigns

One other thing most notable in Coca-Cola is their campaigns, Coca-Cola has always been known to bring up viral and amazing campaigns, one of which is “Share a coke”. They have strived to remain relevant and they have continued to be till this day


What lessons have you learnt from Coca-Cola?

Let us know





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