Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Coca Cola's New Marketing Campaign: Coke is the Secret to Happiness?

So, if you haven't seen it already, Coca Cola has unleashed a new, incredibly clever marketing ploy.  Now all the individual Coke bottles come with names on them.  This "Share a Coke" campaign urges you to reach out to a friend or loved one with a really meaningful gift -- a Coke!  Naturally!

This is some brilliant marketing on their part.  They keep their iconic red-and-white logo, but replace "Coca Cola" with a name.  All told, there are 250 different names that you might be able to find at the store.  Not just that, Coca Cola specifically chose names that were popular among teenagers and millennials -- those of us who are in the most likely position to reach for a Coke.

(I will note that there are no Coke bottles with my name on them. You can check to see if yours is here)

And to accompany this clever branding strategy, Coke's got a whole slew of marketing support -- from the ability to share a "virtual" bottle through its website, to a Twitter hashtag to solicit some social media interaction, to a series of commercials, like this gem:

Now, that's a sweet commercial, right?  doesn't it make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside?  Damn, Coca Cola's marketing team knows what it's doing.

Here's the deal.  The entire brand of Coca Cola is centered on the idea that Coke brings people together.  It will mend your relationships.  It will help you meet new people.  It will usher in a new era of world peace!  Coke is happiness!  Coke is America!  Coke is freedom and sunshine and puppies!

Except, of course, that it's not

Coke is diabetes!  Coke is child obesity! Coke is a dumping ground for the excess GMO corn that our tax dollars are subsidizing! Coke -- and every other soda -- is just empty calories bundled with bone-stripping acid and fake flavors.  It has zero redeeming qualities.

And yet....and yet.

I've ranted about this in the past.  I ranted about this when Coca Cola released its Superbowl commercial.  And I ranted about at length here, where I try to come up with some alternatives to drinking soda.  And the next time Coke comes up with another clever marketing strategy, I'll probably rant about it some more.

Why bother?

I care about this shit because marketing is insidious.  If you don't stop to examine it, to really think critically about it, the message will crawl up inside of you and make a home under your skin.  It will inform your decisions in the future, even when you're not thinking about it -- especially when you're not thinking about it.

Stopping to examine an advertisement, to see what their hidden message is really about, helps to break the spell.  It helps you confront your beliefs and decide whether they're really indicative of how you actually feel.

If you consider the issue critically and you keep drinking Coke, fine.  That's your prerogative.  But go in informed, not with preconceived notions carefully created by a massive marketing company and planted in your head.  Knowledge is power.  Critical thinking can break this spell.

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