How Once-Stodgy Coke Is Leveraging Design To Drive Innovation - And Sales
New York, September 16, 2009 - David Butler has a nearly uncontainable design challenge: making Coke even bigger - and staying ahead of Pepsi. Butler, Coke's first in-house VP of Global Design, has risen to the challenge by applying design principles to a multibillion-dollar operation - using whiz-bang initiatives such as a Ferrari-inspired beverage dispenser and sexy aluminum versions of the classic contour bottle - to help refresh the once-stodgy Coke. In "Pop Artist," the cover story for Fast Company's October issue, senior writer Linda Tischler profiles Butler and Coke as part of the annual "Masters of Design" special report.
In contrast to the controversy earlier this year surrounding Pepsi's revamped logo - and disappointing sales after Pepsi launched new packaging for Tropicana orange juice and the rebranded Gatorade as G - Butler's quiet efforts at Coca-Cola have helped boost market share and drive sales upward.
That Ferrari-inspired beverage dispenser - the Freestyle fountain - provides a case study of Butler's tactics. Developed over 4 years in top secret, Freestyle is a sleek silver soda-fountain machine that dispenses more than 100 different Coca-Cola variants, and represents the largest investment in equipment innovation in the company's history - hundreds of millions of dollars.
Butler designed the machine to address a host of business conundrums: how to satisfy a consumer base that has been increasingly moving away from carbonated sodas; how to lighten the carbon footprint generated by hauling millions of gallons of syrup around the world; how to offer a maximum variety within the cramped confines of a fast-food restaurant or cafeteria; and how to get accurate, real-time feedback on customer choices. This is the kind of project that rings Butler's chimes: "I love big, giant, enormous systems, no matter what they are," Butler tells Tischler.
The October issue of Fast Company is on newsstands beginning September 21 and online at www.fastcompany.com  beginning September 16.
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