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Nostalgia in branding: Coca-Cola through the ages

blur Content | April 18, 2011 | Design

We’ve written before about how Coca-Cola is essentially a glorified marketing agency, given that it outsources most of its other activities to external parties. But boy, it does do marketing very well.

To mark 125 years of the beverage company, Coca-Cola today launches a new multi-platform ad campaign that takes a somewhat nostalgic look back at the company’s previous advertising efforts.

This will be accompanied by its usual larger-than-life marketing tricks, such as giant glass bottles filled with bubbles at busy consumer locations, whilst Coke Zone will allow fans to superimpose pictures of their own faces into retro ads. There just had to be a social angle, eh?

Coke is a good example of how nostalgia and marketing can be combined to create a powerful brand. And with Coke’s latest TV ad associating the brand with a montage of many memorable events over the past century, it’s firmly positioning itself as part of the fabric of society. It will appeal to all ages and demographics…well, all ages and demographics that have ever watched TV.

Here’s a quick tour through Coke’s advertising history. Some you’ll recognize and some, well, you might not.

1900: Celebrity endorsement

Hilda Clark advertising Coca Cola

Hilda Clark advertising Coca Cola

This ad may be 111 years old, but it shows that celebrity endorsements aren’t a product of the television era – this illustration depicts Hilda Clark, who was a popular music hall actress at the time. In 1900, Coca-Cola was only available from pharmacies and soda fountains – Coke didn’t come in cans or bottles for years after this.

1930: commission the pros

Coke Ad 3

Norman Rockwell was a popular American painter and illustrator. Coca-Cola commissioned Rockwell for six ads, including this one, which Ad Age voted as the third best tagline of the 20th century. It also showed that Coca-Cola really understood the power of effective marketing.

1931: Coca-Cola invents Santa?

Coke Ad 2

A popular myth abounds that Coca-Cola invented the modern image of Santa Claus, but that is not true. The rotund, red-and-white imagery of Old St. Nick already existed, but Coke certainly did a lot to popularize the image. Santa Claus has been a major figurehead for the Coke brand since 1931.

1944: Coke goes patriotic

Coke Ad 4

What better way to drive your brand upwards than to support the country’s war efforts? Coke set-up over sixty portable bottling plants in Europe, to ensure it could fulfil its pledge that all US soldiers would be able to buy a Coke for a nickel.

1971: Coke teaches the world to sing

Coke had turned to TV advertising in the early sixties, but it was this ditty from 1971 that cemented Coke’s place in the world’s hearts. The song was written for the ads and, following a very good public reaction, the New Seekers were called upon to record the song properly, removing any reference to Coke and thus became a massive top-ten hit. It even became an anthem for peace during the Vietnam War. Quite an achievement for what was originally nothing more than a catchy TV jingle.

1984: Coke, sport and sponsorship

Coke Ad 5

Coca-Cola had sponsored the Olympic Games since Amsterdam in 1928. This ad from the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles again highlights the brand’s US patriotic stance (notice the red, white and blue?). Coke is the Olympic Games oldest (corporate) sponsor.

1994: Coke goes futuristic

Coca-Cola was an early adopter of computer-generated graphics in its marketing campaigns. This ad is an early example, and helps to show that Coke has always strived to be at the forefront of the advertising game.

Today, Coca-Cola is sold in over two hundred countries and is probably the best example of a true global brand. But it didn’t happen overnight. And this is a key lesson for other marketers out there – there are no shortcuts into the public’s consciousness. It requires persistence, innovation and just a smidgen of creativity.

So – are you looking to build your brand or create a truly global corporate design? Why not submit a brief, and our creatives will get on the case…

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