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Coca-Cola: Did You Know?

. . . that although "Coke" had long been a nickname for Coca-Cola, it wasn't registered as a trademark until 1941.  Haddon Sundblom was commissioned to creat the "Sprite Boy" for the official introduction of "Coke" which was first used in 1842.

Click to play Raleigh Cigarette Program 41-11-16 007 Thanksgiving (Rehearsal)

The Raleigh Cigarette Program 41-11-16 007 Thanksgiving (Rehearsal)


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Coca-Cola History Pages Main Menu Board (Rollover for choices)
Coca-Cola History
Coca-Cola's Formula
Coca-Cola's Early Advertising
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Coca-Cola Goes to War
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A Brief History of Coca-Cola Advertising

Coke is It in Advertising. For over 120 years, Coca-Cola has been an icon--the icon-- for American popular culture and American Advertising. Throughout every era since it's invention in 1886, Coca-Cola has--more accurately than any other commercial commodity in American Advertising history--reflected popular culture through it's advertising campaigns. These pages will take you through ten categories of this uncanny reflection of what America looked like to both Americans and The World.

Physician and Chemist, Dr. John Stith Pemberton c.1865
Physician and Chemist, Dr. John Stith Pemberton c.1865

Invented in May, 1886 by Dr. John S. Pemberton in Atlanta, Georgia, the name "Coca-Cola" was proposed by Frank Robinson, Dr. Pemberton's bookkeeper. First named "Pemberton's French Wine Coca," the 'nerve remedy' was widely distributed at apothecaries throughout Atlanta, though it was a late-comer in the Coca Wine market, Mariani's Coca Wine being the internationally preferred coca wine tonic of choice until then.

Coca Wine for Fatigue of Mind and Body (Click for larger Image)
(Click for larger Image)

Pemberton launched his competing brand, "Pemberton's French Wine Coca", his beverage advertised as an "intellectual beverage" and "invigorator of the brain". He improved on Mariani's Coca Wine tonic through the addition of the kola nut-- famed for its medicinal properties--and damiana, a powerful, naturally occuring aphrodisiac. He marketed the drink as a nerve tonic, recommending it as an aid to overcome morphine addiction. He naturally failed to mention that he, as many medical practitioners of the time, had a serious morphine addiction problem.


Jacob's Pharmacy, 1886
Jacob's Pharmacy, 1886.
The first recorded purveyor of Coca-Cola
(Click for larger Image)

Though widely successful in the Atlanta market, the rise of the temperance movement didn't bode well for a drink based on alcohol--yes, alcohol, not the cocaine or damiana it contained. Convinced as he was of the virtues of the coca leaf, and kola nut, Pemberton focused his efforts towards a "temperance" drink based on these ingredients and the essential oils they contained.

Approval of coca-based tonics declined as the end of the century approached. Regrettably, the same people who were prescribed cocaine to combat morphine dependence were becoming addicted to both drugs.

        America's growing moral unrest over drug abuse at the turn of the century prompted manufacturers to remove the cocaine from Coca-Cola by 1904. It's Coca-Cola Company's policy is to deny the existence of cocaine in their orginal world-acclaimed formula. Indeed, the US Government later attempted to pressure the company to drop the name 'Coca-Cola' altogether. A protracted legal battle ensued and the name was saved; but as with the introduction of every new product change in the beverage, traditionalists maintained that the drink itself never again recaptured its original glory.

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Coca-Cola Goes Corporate

The Flatiron Building, Atlanta, GA, 1898
The Flatiron Building, Atlanta, GA, 1898
Coca-Cola’s 7th Corporate Headquarters

(Click for larger Image)

Frank Robinson, Pemberton's bookkeeper, became Coca-Cola's first marketing genius in short order, convincing Pemberton of the urgency for advertising the brand, and designing the famous Coca-Cola script and trademark. He pressured Pemberton to engage in lavish advertising promotions, issuing free drink coupons and plastering Atlanta with oil-cloth banners and streetcar signs to promote the brand. The extravagant advertising budget paid rapid dividends, quickly promoting Coca-Cola to become the most popular local beverage of it's kind.

Ironically, Pemberton then sold the rights to the Coca-Cola formula--he'd developed cancer and his morphine addiction had likely become very serious--but in 1887, he sold Willis Venable and George Lowndes two-thirds of the rights to the formula. "I am sick, and I believe I will never get out of this bed. The only thing I have is Coca-Cola. Coca-Cola some day will be a national drink. I want to keep a third interest in it so that my son will always have a living". With these words to Mr. Lowndes, Dr. Pemberton relinquished his control of Coca-Cola. Tragically--and even more ironic--Dr. Pemberton's son Charley would be dead from a morphine overdose only six years after Dr. Pemberton's own passing. Atlanta druggists--Asa Candler (below) among them--closed their stores on the day of Pemberton's funeral "and attended the services 'en masse' as a tribute of respect," according to Atlanta newspaper accounts from the era. Pemberton's wife--his only remaining heir--eventually died penniless.

Asa Griggs Candler circa 1925
Asa Griggs Candler circa 1925

Asa Griggs Candler, another local druggist, eventually purchased Pemberton's secret formula--for, reputedly, between $1,750 and $2,300, and elevated Coca-Cola to a national brand. By 1895, a mere seven years after he bought the company, Coca-Cola was available in every U.S. state. Atlanta banker Ernest Woodruff, president of the Trust Company of Georgia, recognized the company's potential and persuaded his son, Robert, to invest in the Coca-Cola Company. In 1923, Woodruff became president of the now publicly traded company.Woodruff, at true innovator, proceeded to turn Coca Cola into a nationally recognized brand marketing his product like no other product had been marketed before. The company spent enormous sums (based on standards of the time) on advertising.

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Rapid Motor Company Delivery Truck, 1909
Rapid Motor Company Delivery Truck, 1909
First delivery of Coca-Cola to Knoxville, TN
(Click for larger Image)

Coca-Cola Advertising Becomes An Institution By Way of The Boardroom

Coca-Cola's phenominal successes after the turn of the century and through the fall of Wall Street and the following Depression relied heavily on it's unprecendented advertising campaigns and Brand recognition.

Coca-Cola's Boardroom, c. 1931
Coca-Cola's Boardroom, c. 1931
(Click for larger Image)

This was the Robert Winship Woodruff era, and as with both Coca-Cola's creator, Dr. Pemberton and marketing genius, Frank Robinson, and Asa Candler before him, Robert Woodruff and Coca-Cola were a great man and a great product whose time had come.

Though it was Asa Candler who introduced Americans to Coke, Robert Woodruff would spend 60 years as Coca-Cola's leader introducing it to the rest of the world. He saw Coca-Cola as a product no one needed so people had to be sold on it. Advertising was the lynchpin in his grand strategy, and Woodruff saw boundless opportunities whereever he looked. It was in 1926 that Mr. Woodruff established Coca-Cola's foreign department, becoming, by 1930, the Coca Cola Export Corporation. They opened plants in France, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Belgium, Italy and South Africa. Woodruff captured these foreign markets with brilliant and creative campaigns, in one instance sending Coca-Cola with the U.S. team to the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics and in another, emblazoning the company logo on racing dog sleds in Canada. He even plastered Coca-Cola banners over the walls of Spanish bull fighting arenas.


Need More? Try these links to learn more about Coca-Cola Advertising