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November 23, 2003

Banishing Brand Nonsense: democracy calls 

A lot of self-interested nonsense is talked up about how the value exchanges that brands multiply are developed, especially by those who want to sell you tv spots.

Let's look at Coca-Cola and USA brand 1910-1960s- Coca-Cola became the nation's favourite brand before tv ads existed- so how did it do it?

In my view it linked 4 brand chartering blocks extraordinarily

ESSENCEIDsArchitectureOwn Leadership Stages
America's Cheerleader RED & whiteBrand USA Americana PartnersCoca-Cola Breaks
Pause that Refreshes Designer BottleBottlers FranchisesGI's Mascot
Within arm's reach of desire Santa ClausPop Song Ambassador

Robert Woodruff was determined that if a developing America needed one product, then a high energy drink was what workers needed more than anything as they built American freeways in the hot sun. He was also determined that serving the pause that refreshes would be an uplifting pleasure for all along the supply chain as well as customers. Certainly America would have taken longer to build its nationwide distribution systems without Coke. Amongst other innovations, Robert convinced factory owners that their workers should have a Coca-Cola time-break, and innovated the vending machine to deliver that. He later convinced America's war office that in the extreme fatigue of world war 2, American GI's should have Coke wherever they went- the nation sponsored that at 5 cents a bottle. As cheerleader Coca-Cola was there: in prohibition, it packaged itself in the smartest bottle design ever seen, in depression time its timeout provided good cheer, in exiting the vietnam war, it sponsored the pop song "I'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony", with youth from every nation congregating together in what could be called the first pop song video.

Coke's Red and white match the American flag and other leading Americana products. Coke found that Santa Claus had no uniform and dressed him in corporate red & white, sending out hundreds of thousands of the first Xmas cards, at least the first with Santa in them.

In other words Coke wasnt just an expensive communications campaign, it valued doing more to build America than any other brand and in return America built Coke. This raises 2 very intriguing questions: have other brands helped bulld nations and if so with what flagship products? and if Robert Woodruff were alive today, would his ultimate campaign "I'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony" have coalesced through some real global responsibility-making to have built a different superpower America than the one we see today. I believe the answer is yes on both counts- part 2 of this serial later in the week.
Chris Macrae,
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