Tom Webster, writing and speaking

The Remarkable Consistency Of Coke

Added on by Tom Webster.

No, I'm not talking about its "secret formula," which has gone from standard to "new" to "Classic" to "Zero" over the years. What is truly remarkable to me is how consistently on-brand they continue to be, no matter the prevailing winds. 

Last night's Super Bowl ad got a lot of people talking, for good and for ill. There's no question that the ad's polyglot rendition of "America The Beautiful" brought out some ugly Americans. But while the ad might have seemed provocative to some, it was extraordinarily on-brand for Coke. 

If you've ever studied psychology, you may have come across Carl Jung's Archetype theory--the notion that there are a finite number of distinct "patterns" to our personality and consciousness, and humans tend to inhabit one of those finite archetypes despite their individual differences. In Jung's theory, there are "tricksters," "heroes," "sages" and other patterns that we tend to gravitate towards.

The same can be said for brands, though they aren't always so consistent. There's a wonderful book by Carol Pearson and Margaret Mark called The Hero and the Outlaw that explores how brands use these archetypes to create meaning--and it is the co-creation of that meaning that ultimately forms a lasting brand narrative. To Pearson and Mark, successful brands are ultimately represented by a single archetype--while unsuccessful brands assume multiple cloaks and guises.

If you look at Coke's LONG advertising history, they have unwaveringly represented the Jungian archetype of The Child, or as Pearson and Mark call it, The Innocent. From "I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing," to "Mean Joe Greene," the Polar Bears, and now this year's "America The Beautiful," Coca-Cola has steadfastly looked at the world from the eyes of the innocent. And for all the hatred that their 2014 Super Bowl ad seems to have sparked on Twitter, the ad was 100% consistent in that viewpoint--this is how a child sees the world (the "hate" thing seems to come a little later in life, I'm told.)

You can certainly contrast Coca-Cola's resolutely "innocent" brand narrative with that of Pepsi, which has veered from young, to edgy, to sexy (and from a company that has gone from skipping the Super Bowl famously in 2010, to sponsoring the Half Time show this year.) 

The faces may change, and the styles may differ, but Coca-Cola's brand archetype has remained shockingly and admirably consistent for decades. Truly, Coke is a brand with a working compass. Enjoy this year's rendition.