Episode 45

Coca Cola

What does it mean to be a brand?

One of the most critical barriers to success is understanding what a brand is and what a brand is NOT.  I get this question all the time. Let me tell you what a brand is NOT: A brand is NOT a name, logo, tag-line, package design or the product itself. I call these elements: Window-dressing your brand. A brand is simply an EMOTIONAL IDENTITY that differentiates products, services and people.

As a former marketing executive at global multi-billion dollar consumer products companies like Nabisco, Kraft Foods, Cadbury and Godiva, I successfully crafted emotional identities for some of the world’s most iconic brands. Over the course of 25 years, a frequent challenge I faced was communicating the role a brand played in consumer’s lives…in other words its Core Value. To solve this problem, I developed a process to label that brand’s Core Value using just ‘One Word’.  This helps consumers understand what they are actually buying. 

During this series, I will select a brand I worked on or studied and share it’s ‘One Word’ Core Value, as well as share valuable topics in the branding arena that will help you Stand-Out Conquer Obstacles and Reach Excellence…in other words, SCORE.

So let’s turn to today’s brand clip…Coca Cola

Show Notes (click to expand)

We’re all spending way too much time on our digital devices – watching YouTube videos, scrolling Instagram stories, dancing  on Tik Tok, and swiping our lives away. Zoom calls and quarantinis during the global pandemic have only heightened this behavior.

So it’s no wonder we’re losing our ability to have deeper, more spontaneous conversations with others, changing the nature of our social interactions in startling ways. The reality is, while we live in a world where digital innovations promise to keep us more connected, we’ve actually become more isolated than ever. 

I witnessed this problem first-hand when I moved my kids into college. Even for the most outgoing Freshmen, taking their noses out of their phones and breaking the ice to make new friends can be very intimidating. As many of us have experienced, that first day can be quite daunting.

So what does this have to do with Coca Cola?

Well, in one of my favorite Coca Cola marketing stunts, “The Friendly Twist”, they showed how a new bottle could force social interactions on college campuses. The secret was in a cap that only opened when it united with another bottle. Coca Cola demonstrated how students needed a peer to help them open their soda bottle, forcing them to communicate and bond.

The idea was simple, but the message was powerful!

“Open a Coke, open a new friendship” demonstrated that social rather than digital connections drive HAPPINESS. 

Using their beverage, the Coca Cola brand does a beautiful job of associating their equity with feelings of positivity, inspiration and optimism…in other words, HAPPINESS. 

“The Friendly Twist” campaign, which ironically has over 120 thousand YouTube views, integrated well with Coke’s overall message of finding joy in the little things in life. Check it out on YouTube by typing “Coca Cola Open HAPPINESS” inside the search bar!

If there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s this:

o   Your product is NOT your brand.

o   Your brand is your Core Value…AND

o   You use your product as the vehicle to drive your Core Value.

o   Coca Cola uses their beverage to drive their Core Value of HAPPINESS.

So the next time you’re looking to ‘Open Happiness’, grab a Coca Cola and remember this as you hear that hissing sound: 


I’m Rich Keller, The CATALYST, and see you next time on The CATALYST Effect!

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