Did you know Coca-Cola rolled out the aluminum version of its glass bottle in 2005? Or that blues players regularly used the necks from bottles to play slide guitar? (It’s known as the bottleneck slide.) Or that the bottle was the first brand to appear on the cover of Time magazine in 1950? Well, now you know.
Coke is walking down memory lane to celebrate its “contour” bottle’s 100th anniversary, kicking off a multi-pronged campaign that includes everything from traditional advertising like TV and print to a traveling art tour and a tabletop book.
The bottle was originally designed in 1915 by Root Glass Company, after Coke issued a challenge to glass manufacturers in the U.S to develop a “bottle so distinct that you would recognize it by feeling in the dark or lying broken on the ground.”
“I think the brief itself was genius,” says James Sommerville, VP design at Coca-Cola. “To write a brief 100 years ago and say ‘the solution needs to be recognized in the dark,’ takes something very rational–a holding device for a liquid–and adds an emotional layer on top. And that obviously drove the designers to really think and look for a solution that would not only provide a unique vessel for the brand, but a perfect design for a perfect beverage. And I think that’s why it’s really stood the test of time.”
“From the very beginning, [the brand] made the bottle the symbol of Coca-Cola around the world,” adds Katie Bayne, SVP global sparkling brands. “For us, it has been our most valuable asset and a true icon.”
To show off its influence on design and pop culture over the past century, Coca-Cola asked known and unknown artists from around the globe to put their own spin on the bottle.
Some of the submitted pieces will end up in a coffee-table book printed by Assouline, Kiss the Past Hello, which also features classic Coca-Cola-inspired art. The rest of the works will roll out with an exhibition, launching February 26 in Atlanta (Coke’s hometown) at the High Museum of Art. The show will also feature more than 15 pieces of work from Andy Warhol (including two Coke bottle paintings), a photo display and an interactive display of 1,000 3-D printed bottles suspended from the ceiling. A traveling exhibit, launched in Johannesburg, South Africa, will showcase a collection of 20 pieces of art and some interactive components.
The brand is also launching an ad campaign in 140 countries, developed largely by Ogilvy & Mather Paris and Wieden + Kennedy’s Portland office, with TV and digital spots rolling out late last week (for a total of 14 in all by year end). The creative brief was to showcase the bottle of Coke as “the best drink on Earth,” says Bayne. The commercials include everything from a group of people offering their bottle of Coke to folks more in need (with the need getting progressively more dire), to a teenage boy telling his younger brother about the “epic” journey a bottle takes to get into consumers’ hands, to hero shots of the bottle overlaid with sumptuous noises (think fizzling and popping the cap) and sounds from iconic moments in history (such as rocket launches and “99 Red Balloons”). And in that vein, the brand also tapped shots of Elvis Presley, Ray Charles and Marilyn Monroe, each caught on camera holding a bottle of Coke for the print and out-of-home components.
Finally, a walk down memory lane wouldn’t be complete without an app, fittingly taking consumers through a history lesson of the bottle. “[We’re] counterbalancing that history with new design work and new ways to express the brand,” says Sommerville. “We’re very conscious that we can speak to our past and our grandparents, but to the future [generations] as well. We’re basically targeting everybody.”