Case Study: The Birth of a Refreshing Idea: Coca-Cola History

The product that has given the world its best-known taste was born in Atlanta, Georgia, on May 8, 1886. Dr. John Stith Pemberton, a local pharmacist, produced the syrup for Coca-Cola, and carried a jug of the new product down the street to Jacobs' Pharmacy, where it was sampled, pronounced "excellent" and placed on sale for five cents a glass as a soda fountain drink. Carbonated water was teamed with the new syrup to produce a drink that was at once "Delicious and Refreshing," a theme that continues to echo today wherever Coca-Cola is enjoyed through the Coca-Cola trademark.

Thinking that "the two Cs would look well in advertising," Dr. Pemberton's partner and bookkeeper, Frank M. Robinson, suggested the name and penned the now famous trademark "Coca-Cola" in his unique script. The first newspaper ad for Coca-Cola soon appeared in The Atlanta Journal, inviting thirsty citizens to try "the new and popular soda fountain drink." Hand-painted oilcloth signs reading "Coca-Cola" appeared on store awnings, with the suggestion "Drink" added to inform passers-by that the new beverage was for soda fountain refreshment. During the first year, sales averaged a modest nine drinks per day.

Dr. Pemberton never realized the potential of the beverage he created. He gradually sold portions of his business to various partners and, just prior to his death in 1888, sold his remaining interest in Coca- Cola to Asa G. Candler. An Atlantan with great business acumen, Mr. Candler proceeded to buy additional rights and acquire complete control.

The History of the Coca-Cola Contour Bottle The Creation of a Cultural Icon

A Refreshing Legacy

One of the most famous shapes in the world is the iconic contour fluted lines of the Coca-Cola bottle. Renowned as a design classic and described by noted industrial designer, Raymond Loewy as the “perfect liquid wrapper,” the bottle has been celebrated in art, music and advertising. When Andy Warhol wanted a shape to represent mass culture, he drew the bottle and when Volkswagen wanted to celebrate the shape of the Beatle, they compared the car to the bottle. How did the bottle become so iconic? It began with the desire to protect brand Coca-Cola and was a cooperative project between The Coca-Cola Company and its bottlers.

An Iconic Beginning

In 1899, two Chattanooga lawyers, Joseph Whitehead and Benjamin Thomas, travelled to Atlanta to negotiate the rights to bottle Coca-Cola. The product had been an increasingly popular soda fountain drink established a mere 13 years previously. In fountain form, Coca-Cola grew from an average of nine drinks per day sold in 1886 to being sold in every state of the US by 1900. Thomas and Whitehead wanted to capitalise on the popularity of the drink by bottling it to be consumed outside the four walls of a soda fountain.

The contract the two signed was a geographic one and The Coca-Cola Bottling Company began franchising the rights to bottle Coca-Cola in cities across the U.S. By 1920, over 1,200 Coca-Cola bottling operations were established. Sales in both fountain and bottle form continued to increase and that popularity led to dozens of competitors trying to imitate the famous trademark of Coca-Cola to deceive the public into buying their drinks.

The bottles used in those days were simple straight-sided bottles that were typically brown or clear. The Coca-Cola Company required that the bottlers emboss the famous Coca-Cola logo onto every bottle. However, competitor brands like Koka-Nola, Ma Coca-Co, Toka-Cola and even Koke copied or only slightly modified the Spencerian script logo. These competitor bottles created confusion among consumers. While the Coca-Cola Company began litigation against these infringements, the cases often took years and the bottlers were constantly asking for more protection.

As a first step to help the bottlers, in 1906, The Coca-Cola Company introduced a diamond shaped label with a colourful trademark to stand out from the infringers. Unfortunately, Coca-Cola was often sold out of barrels of ice-cold water that would cause the labels to peel off. Some competitors like Koca-Nola even imitated the label as well!

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