“I’d like to buy the world a Coke and keep it company” were the words Bill Backer scribbled on a napkin during an unscheduled stop in Ireland one morning. Those words eventually gave birth to one of the world’s most memorable TV commercials: Hilltop. In today’s NYT, Mr. Backer recounted the basic idea “to see Coke not as it was originally designed to be – a liquid refresher – but as a tiny bit of commonality between all peoples (angry travelers in an airport), a universally liked formula that would help keep them company for a few minutes.”
An equally powerful Coke commercial, remembered simply as “Mean Joe Greene,” sees an injured, tired, defeated and grumpy football player consoled by a little kid with a Coke. It does not play Mr. Backer’s “company” card. He doesn’t need company, he’s limping to the locker room.
The fact is, both of these spots have plots. Both use different strategies. What they share, whether solving the world’s ills or an individual’s is the need to refresh. The current iteration of Coke advertising, by Wieden+Kennedy, is the “happiness” campaign. It’s some really great work. But happiness is an outcome of refreshment. Coca-Cola is not pot. It’s not Xanax.
Coke ad strategies have changed over time according to its ad agents. According to its taglines. But the brand strategy remains the same: refreshment. There is no escaping it. Don’t reinvent it, embrace it.