kameel Hawa | The coke article
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The coke article

A few years ago, I wrote an article about Coke’s return to its old classic logo. Long since forgotten, I was surprised to come across this plate (pictured below) in our Beirut office, which made me want to revisit what I had written. After some digging, here it is. The double name on the plate made me smile. So the name “Coke” is brought in again!! But “Cocacola or Coke?”, the consumer answer I would guess is: “who cares”!
plate_coke

WHAT’S WRONG WITH COKE?

Why the nostalgic return to the old Coca Cola graphics and “Marilyn Monroe” bottle became a problem rather than a solution.

 

Several years ago, Coca Cola took a rather risky decision to revisit its former brand symbols, bringing to the forefront the original long cursive calligraphy in its logo. The old, abandoned sexy Coca Cola glass bottle, once admired in the fifties, also made its way back onto supermarket shelves. In other words, Coca Cola reinstated all of its old ‘love marks’.

This move was more than just a temporary hype aiming to stir up some nostalgia but a fundamental change here to stay. Coke had made a similar move several decades ago when they tried to change Coke’s taste but were then forced by consumers to go back to the original product, re-introduced into the market as “Coke Classic”. In so far as their latest attempt to bring back the old look and feel, however, it looks more to this disinterested observer like a last ditch effort, by a company playing its last hand

As beautiful as it is, it is out of tune with contemporary ads. The cursive name as a trade mark simply looks old, outdated, and unattractive to today’s audience. A quick comparison with Pepsi during the world cup matches tells a lot. Pepsi could easily launch an `”unleash your emotions” type of campaign. Just look at the Coca Cola logo displayed on the football field fences!  Dont you find it rather inert, devoid of any vibrancy, appeal, or impact?

In addition to being outdated, the logo is also being used today to address the wrong audience. This logo could appeal to the older generation, myself included, with an inkling for the nostalgia of a half century ago. Conversely, this same generation would be perhaps more concerned with cutting down its consumption of soft drinks! This ancient-looking logo is alien to the entire family of brands with which the young generation interacts. It needs no argument that COKE as a name, which the company seems to have discarded, is for the young a much better ‘take’, both as a style and a name. What better credit can any company have for its product than a good, pronounceable and unforgettable reference? All you need is COKE!

And if one might assume, that PEPSI as a name has a nicer ring for kids than COKE, then, in a way,  this might have given Pepsi a bit of an advantage in its market expansion, but still Coke is not a name kids would turn their back to.

 

As for the beautifully-carved small glass bottle, a return to it looks totally “dépassé’’. Customers’ soft drink consumption habits have shifted to big cheap plastic bottles, the cold tin can, or even the draft filled plastic cups in fast food restaurants. So a throw-back to the popularly-named “Marilyn Monroe” bottle — not as a ‘special’ edition but as a continuing market product — is like an out of tune musical piece and will never generate the necessary enthusiasm to bring market place success. When you hand it to anyone, or put it on the table in front of a guest, the first reaction is incomprehension: what am I supposed to do with this thing? The simple joy of holding a small glass bottle with your bubbly drink has long been a thing of the past.

It may be that companies exaggerate people’s attitudes in terms of brand loyalty and, for this reason, are often reluctant to implement a major change in their logo or packaging. Surely, however, experience has proven, time and again, that consumers are less inhibited in their relationships to brands, especially the ones they got used to over the years. They can easily identify a Pepsi or a Coke and grab one if they want it. All in all, those panic-stricken campaigns promising ‘same good taste’ are futile.

The world is changing, and so are eating and drinking habits. This applies to many consumer products, especially those that falling under the scrutiny of health campaigns as soft drinks have. In a way, no campaign today, however successful, can create an enthusiasm for any cigarette brand! Smokers themselves have become too anxious to be swayed. Soft drinks fans not as much, but still.

Millions still drink Coke or Pepsi. They just find them good especially with hamburgers and pizzas. But in fast food restaurants, if one orders a ‘coke’ very few still really mind if they are served one or the other. The days of ‘hey hey Pepsi’ and “Coke Always” are gone to no return, mainly because the products themselves quite frankly are not all that different. I believe we are in an era where consumers are just disinterested with the campaigns for such a mundane product as a soft drink. Even the word campaign sounds like an overkill. The way forward for them, if there is one, rests elsewhere.

And since we used the on-going world cup to prove a point, so also in a way Coca Cola did something similar to what Argentina tried to do by reinstating Maradona. Both old symbols should not have been on the field.

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