I know it’s been a long time since I’ve written, and I want you to know that I’m still a huge admirer of your brand. You’re the perfect example of a super brand that can seemingly do no wrong, an iconic global trademark with perhaps the broadest recognition of all time. And, even though you’ve been passed by Apple and Google as the most valuable brand in the world, hey, you’re still worth more than $70 billion and you don’t have to worry about all that complicated technology stuff that costs so much money to sustain.
You’re still putting out some of the most powerful advertising to be found, and even Mad Men chose to end their show with one of your classic commercials. You were then, and you still are, the Real Thing.
Which is really why I’m writing to you. For all your dominance and brand-building prowess, what is it with you and your taglines? Why hasn’t one of the greatest brands of all time ever been able to stick with a slogan for more than a few years? Based on a list on your website of Coke taglines, you’ve had 22 slogans since 1969 when you introduced, “It’s the Real Thing.” That’s about one every two years.
I think you may have commitment issues.
Some of your most famous ones lasted only a little longer than average. One of my favorites, “Coke is it!” made it three years. So did “Have a Coke and a smile.” “Always Coca-Cola” was the longest-lived at seven years. “Make it real,” and “You can’t beat the feeling,” each lasted only about a year, which is probably for the best.
Your just-retired slogan, “Open happiness” also had a long run, by your standards, of about six years. By contrast, the McDonald’s slogan, “i’m lovin’ it,” has lasted 11 years, “Just do it” (no attribution necessary) is 28 years old, and “The Ultimate Driving Machine” is now more than 40 years old. C’mon, Big Red, isn’t time you locked on to something really great?
Sadly, I must say, that I don’t think your latest attempt is going to be it. Is it OK if I don’t like your new tagline? Here it is:
“Taste the feeling.”
Did I hear that right? Cuz it doesn’t quite make sense to me. Granted, taking any slogan out of context and studying the words can make it seem odd or awkward. Putting this tagline at the end of one of your superbly produced commercials will make it much better, kind of like dipping just about anything in hot butter. But, I don’t know how to taste a feeling. I can feel feelings and I can taste colas, but I’m having trouble making the leap between the two.
I have a little theory about using the word “taste” to sell a food or beverage product. You can’t just tell your consumer to taste something, you have to tell them what you want them to taste. In 1985, you introduced a slogan, “We’ve got a taste for you.” It lasted less than a year. Why? I submit it’s because you didn’t tell us what to look for. In 2001, you got closer with “Life tastes good.” That one made it about two years, which is average for you, but below average for a brand in your league. “Life tastes good” was at least more positive and uplifting. It fit your brand’s essence of celebrating little moments of life (with a Coke, of course).
“Taste the feeling” strikes me as a kind of mash-up of many of your slogans over the years. You took a piece of “You can’t beat the feeling” (one year only) and crunched it up with some of your taste-based concoctions. You left out any use of the word “real,” though, so maybe that could fit into your next one in a couple of years. Yeah, I said it. This one is not going to last long, but based on your track record, that’s hardly a bold prediction.
Look, I still love the taste of Coke and, no, Pepsi is not OK instead. Not every great brand has a great slogan, nor do they have to have one. The brand is the thing, the real thing, if I may. I’ll give you credit for staying focused on your brand position and for being the undisputed heavyweight champion of cola. But somewhere, out there, is a great tagline waiting for you latch onto. Just do it, already.
As published in the Central Penn Business Journal, the Reading Eagle, the Northeast Pennsylvania Business Journal and Lehigh Valley Business.