Share the Love, Don’t Share a Coke

old school coke

I STOPPED drinking soda for good after high school. Which wasn’t too hard, since I never drank it much then, either. Syrupy, sugary-sweet cola of any kind made my teeth feel like they had grown moss and the aftertaste was lingering and metallic. I learned about some of the charming side-effects later in life (irritation of the stomach, increased heart rate, the fact that it can supposedly be used to clean pennies or your toilet… yeah, no thanks), but my Coke abstinence was strong; with the exception of a few hangovers and the occasional Mexican Coke sans high-fructose corn syrup, I felt resolute about my soda-free living.

Until this year’s “Share a Coke” campaign.

I popped into a Canadian BBQ place last week and staring back at me out of the cooler was a bottle of Coke with my name on it. Literally, with my name on it. For which I will give Coke this: they have some of the best marketing in the world (although their “You’re on Diet Coke” slogan and advertising did create a lot of uproar earlier this year). The “Share a Coke” campaign features proper names in place of the iconic Coke symbol on one side of the Coke bottle, which seems to makes it a more compelling option.

I bought it. I bought the stupid Amanda Coke and I took it home, drank it even though the first few sips hurt my mouth and it has 70 freakin’ grams of sugar, then belched repeatedly and cradled my stomach for the rest of the evening. My mouth and digestive system were not ready for all of that sugary, caffeinated, bubbly beverage. Do you know what else I did? I took a photograph of it and debated posting it to Instagram like I had seen several other people do before it struck me that the marketing geniuses at Coke have found a way to make US advertise for THEM. The hashtag #ShareACoke has almost 300,000 posts on Instagram. Keep in mind that this is just one hashtag for the campaign… Canadian bottles have separate #shareacokecanada and #partagezuncoke hashtags  and I’m assuming other countries have similar, region-specific ones too. Their eye-catching, personalized bottles give extra incentive for sharing your Coke on social media. It’s sort of like when the barista at Starbucks spells your name wrong — you post the photo and it becomes instant advertising for the company. It’s an epic advertising campaign with a hashtag-worthy slogan.

Do you know what Coke’s slogan was in 1939?

Whoever You Are, Whatever You Do, Wherever You May Be, When You Think of Refreshment Think of Ice Cold Coca-Cola.

In 1952? What You Want is a Coke

2009? Open Happiness

Anyone else thinks that has a brainwashing, cult-y vibe to it? Kudos once again to their marketing and advertising departments, but I don’t feel great about a drink that has been linked to:

  • tooth decay because of its acidity and high amounts of sugar
  • physical dependency because of the caffeine
  • causing regular soft drink users to  have a lower intake of calcium, magnesium, ascorbic acid, riboflavin, and vitamin A

As for the company itself, here are a few notable moments:

  • In 2004, local officials in the Indian state of Kerala shut down a $16 million Coke bottling plant, blaming it for a drastic decline in the quantity and quality of water available to locals
  • In 2006, the Indian state of Kerala banned the sale and production of Coca-Cola due to concerns of high levels of pesticide residue
  • Coca-Cola was charged in a U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia with “forcing some bottlers to purchase hundreds of millions of dollars of unnecessary beverage concentrate to make its sales seem higher.”
  • Coca-Cola was accused of Bbribing the American Pediatric Dental Association with a $1 million donation in 2003

The Share a Coke campaign is cute and social-media friendly, but not much else about Coca Cola is cute or friendly. Maybe instead of sharing a Coke, we should share information about its health hazards and deplorable business practices. Or at least use it to clean our toilets.

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