How Coca-Cola Plans To Unite Its Coke Line Into One Big Red Brand

The soda giant is done asking you to “Open Happiness,” now wants you to “Taste The Feeling.”

As one of the largest, most recognizable global brands on the planet, Coca-Cola can afford to have high ambitions. Maybe that’s why, in 2013, they attempted to bring peace to India and Pakistan and end cyber-bullying as part of its “Open Happiness” campaign. With a dominant market share and one of the most iconic brand identities there are, it makes sense that the folks at Coke might have looked out and seen few worlds left to conquer. But alas, seven years later, the time has come for the company to move on from “Open Happiness” and the grand ambitions that accompanied it: Earlier this week, Coca-Cola announced the launch of “Taste The Feeling,” its new global campaign that re-centers the focus of the brand’s marketing efforts on the sugary, bubbly beverage that the company actually sells.


More specifically, “Taste The Feeling” is about the variety of sugary, bubbly beverages that the company sells: According to James Sommerville, Coca-Cola’s VP of Global Design, the plan for the new campaign is to unite the entire Coke family–from the red-and-white “classic” Coke to Diet Coke, Coke Zero, and the stevia-sweetened Coca-Cola Life–under one visual and marketing identity. “My specific role within this campaign is with the visual identity system, and the graphic application of how that works,” Sommerville explains. “So what we did is use the Coca-Cola red disc, which is synonymous with Coca-Cola, as a device that represents all of the variants–not just the classic, but also Zero and Life, as that unfolds.”

Coke’s iconography is famous–even the shape of the bottle is a registered trademark–which is why, Sommerville says, the time felt right as the company was moving on from “Open Happiness” to pursue a campaign that takes full advantage of it. “We’re uniting them under a ‘one brand’ strategy–that was an insight on some previous packaging, and we feel it’s the right time to move the brand forward under a more unified, cohesive series of campaigns and a visual identity system. Rather than the black can, or the red can, to borrow equity from the red and apply that to them all,” he says.

While the first stages in “Taste The Feeling” involve the ad campaign and announcing the overall strategy, Sommerville notes that they’ve also been testing ways to bring the “one brand” strategy to the packaging itself at some point in the future. “If you break down the visual elements of the individual brands, they all have the same bottle shape, the same script, and the dynamic ribbon–the only missing piece of that was the red, so they’re effectively all carrying the same elements, and we’re introducing the missing jigsaw piece,” he says.

It’s fair to say that unifying the Coke family as a visually cohesive whole is the main idea behind “Taste The Feeling,” but it’s not all that the campaign is after. Where “Open Happiness” was about the broader ideas behind Coke–those grand ambitions about world peace–“Taste The Feeling” is about the drink itself. “It’s the feeling of Coke, and being with your friends, and these every day situations when Coke is at the table,” Sommerville says. And capturing that–visually, at least–involves looking back at one artist with deep ties to the brand: Norman Rockwell.

“I just loved the storytelling and narrative that he brings into his paintings,” Sommerville says of a new visual storytelling approach to Coke that the company describes as “Norman Rockwell meets Instagram.” “There’s always stories within stories, and I really wanted to use that as the foundational architecture–but at the same time, I wanted to make it relevant and very much of today, to capture the spontaneous moment, where this needs to happen in a split second. So it’s moving that into an Instagram/Snapchat generation, where it’s more of the moment, and then the moment’s gone.”

Ultimately, “Taste The Feeling” may have lower stakes than “Open Happiness”–at least in terms of what it attempts to say about the world–but that doesn’t mean Coke isn’t every bit as invested in it. Sommerville sees the campaign as one with potential to last as long as its predecessor, and to help deepen the connection that people already have to the brand. “People who love Coca-Cola, and maybe drank Coca-Cola Classic as a young person–they make choices as they get older,” he says. “They switch to calorie-free or low-calorie variants, but we’re retaining those values, to connect to why someone started to enjoy Coca-Cola in the first place, and we’ll apply those to the variants. So rather than send someone away to the variants, we’re bringing the variants back to the brand.”


About the author

Dan Solomon lives in Austin with his wife and his dog. He's written about music for MTV and Spin, sports for Sports Illustrated, and pop culture for Vulture and the AV Club.