Coca-Cola 1886 To 2016 – How The Brand Continues To Evolve In Its Marketing Communications

2016 saw Coca-Cola change its much celebrated philosophy of “Open Happiness” to “Taste the Feelings”. Anadi Sah takes us through the journey of this ever evolving brand over the years

Editor’s Note: Guest post from Anadi Sah, Creative Director at isobar. Thoughts expressed by the author in this post are his personal views.

Change is good and when it is from a brand such as Coca-Cola that has a rich heritage and is followed by billions around the globe then it is bound to create some curiosity amongst its fans and followers. Coca-Cola recently announced the change in its much celebrated philosophy and tagline from “Open Happiness” to “Taste the Feelings”.

“Open Happiness” was coined 7 years ago and gave the world some really serious, heart-touching and cheerful campaigns under it – all thanks to the ever-evolving social media. It is quoted by the newly appointed Global Chief Marketing Officer, Marcos de Quinto, that the previous communication became a little bit too preachy whereas the new communication is built on the core values of Coca-Cola that is humbleness and simplicity. While this might be true, but the same was also stated in an article dated January 21, 2009, when the “Open Happiness” tagline was released. Maybe adhering too long to the same proposition limited the possibilities and unknowingly moved the brand away from the core business of selling aerated drinks in bottles to selling happiness.

Whatever may be the real reason but we were completely sold to the Open Happiness proposition. In one research study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies, it was stated that Coca-Cola really did sell happiness with their bottles.

In reality, this wasn’t the first change by this dynamic brand. Coca-Cola has always been an ever-evolving brand which is relevant to the audience, culture and time in terms of content and context. Coca-Cola has been crafting different communications for different geographies at the same time. For instance, in 1977 when Coke left India it carried the tagline – “Coke adds life”, and when it made its official return in 1993, in the shadow of the Taj Mahal it introduced the tagline – “Always the Real Thing”. This tagline was specific only for India, which if one notices is a fusion of two popular communications from 1990 and 1993.

Notable taglines/slogans that coke changed over the years are the following and the visual representation of these taglines can be seen here.

Change in Identity

Talking about the change one really can’t miss mentioning the epic Spencerian script logo and how it has changed over the years. Moreover, Coke is the only brand that took the bold step to change its name to a moniker that was colloquial amongst its fans and followers. How the identity changed over years also illustrated below:



1969 - 2007




Change in Packaging

Not just the logo but the bottle that contained this magical potion has also undergone a lot of changes over the years. It is said that the Coca‑Cola Company asked bottle manufacturers to submit designs for a bottle for Coca‑Cola that was so distinctive that it could be recognized by a feel in the dark or identified lying broken on the ground. The quest ended in 1915 when the distinctively shaped bottle design was patented.

Coca Cola Bottles

Change in Popular Culture

Not just to its own assets, but Coca-Cola is also a brand that takes the credit of changing a cultural icon that exists till date. Coke was the brand that imagined and portrayed Santa Claus image in all red that till date it is celebrated. The Christmas ads from the brand released in 1921 and the one released in 1951 clearly depict the power of change driven by advertising.

Change in Visual Content

Coca-Cola did not only change how TV spots were made but over the years has changed and revolutionized the format of visual content and how it is delivered. It was in 1950 during Thanksgiving when Coke started with TV advertising. During the 1960s it served a lifestyle to the youth. Since 1971, they started exploring long format content which touched the hearts of the generation.  “I’d like to buy the world a Coke” (1971), “Mean” Joe Greene (1979), “Northern Lights” (1993) are considered amongst the best television ads ever made.

Change from a Brand in Sports to Fan of Sports

Coke started with showcasing the moments of achievement in 1932 Olympics through its advertisements. While Coca-Cola always had a topical flavor of various sports played across continents in its advertisements, in 1976, it created history by associating with Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). The brand also released an unofficial theme song for the 2010 FIFA World Cup that celebrated the spirit of the game and became a global hit. Coke is a classic case for any brand on how to best associate with sports.

As quoted by Noble Prize winner, Dr. Albert von Szent-Gyorgy, “Creativity is about seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought.”

Coca-Cola has been immensely creative in its marketing tactics over the years. Whether it is inventing automatic fountain dispensers, opening happiness through experiential marketing in a socially-connected world or serving micro content to the smart digital natives.

I am sure that as long as Coca-Cola continues to embrace change, it will keep crafting innovative brand experiences that generate brand commerce and brand love.