No matter what you think of Coca-Cola, you have to admit they excel at branding. It’s mind-blowing that a fizzy drink has 5.9 million fans on Facebook – and that’s just their main fan page too – there are many other related pages for specific countries or drink types. This popularity got me thinking about why this brand is still so successful today and has been for over a century. I wanted to work out what they’re doing right and most of all discover how we can learn from their branding genius to improve our own personal branding, no matter how small and humble we may seem compared to this soft drink giant.
Can’t beat the feeling
I don’t know if you were around in 1989, but I was studying at London University, and that’s when the Coca-Cola company introduced their ‘can’t beat the feeling’ slogan which has stayed with me 21 years.
I had a minor coke problem back then. Nothing out of control, just one diet coke a day but I really looked forward to it. I supplemented that with three or four chocolate bars. And though I’ve cut back on my coke habit, I still indulge in a chocolate fix daily. Even though I don’t drink Coca-Cola much these days, I still love it and totally recommend it for all night working, studying or partying sessions, tummy troubles, and the hangovers that sometimes follow the all night partying.
I’m a bit of a cheap skate and regularly buy supermarket no name brands of staple products like flour, canned tomatoes, and milk, but I’d never never dream of buying a cheap imitation of Coca-Cola. The thought sends a shudder down my spine. It’s got to be the real thing. If not, I’d rather go without.
I also have brand loyalty when it comes to certain other products like Cadbury’s chocolate, Gap clothes, Lancôme beauty products, and Walker’s crisps – you’ll have to head to England to experience the joys of those – they’re a type of potato chip which I’ve had shipped out to me specially in France, the US, and Zimbabwe. But even though I love these brands, I regularly eat other brands of chocolate and chips, use other beauty products, and wear other clothing labels.
What makes me so devoted to Coca-Cola?
- The quality guarantee. There’s probably an official guarantee when you buy a can of coke, but I never save the receipt as I do when buying something that I half expect to let me down. If you buy a product from Coca-Cola, you know what you’re getting will be good. It goes without saying because their products have been tried and tested for 125 years and they’re sold in 206 countries.
- The instantly recognizable branding. That color scheme and fonts jump out at me in shops. The Coca-Cola branding has the obvious advantage of being bright red so it stands out from the other soft drinks. But it’s not just the color – the curly font and the wavy line are familiar to me too. When a brand has that kind of strength and unique design, you look forward to seeing them almost as much as you do an old friend.
But this is where it gets really scary – and I promise you it’s true. Not a lot of people know about it. I don’t try to keep it secret, but it’s not something you’d brag about. So here goes: I chose my kids’ names based on the popularity of the name Coca-Cola.
Here’s how it happened. I’m a compulsive researcher and planner. When I was pregnant in 1997 with my first child I pored over baby name books and websites. Somewhere I read a theory that one of the reasons Coca Cola has become such a well known, timeless, global and popular brand is because of the name and the two hard “c” sounds next to each other. Try it, let the words Coca-Cola trip off your tongue and you’ll see what I mean. It’s fun, catchy, and memorable.
Knowing this had a strong influence on me choosing all three of my kids’ names. That’s how I ended up carefully picking names which emulated the two “c” sounds with all three of my children. I was lucky that my husband’s surname is Candy or I could never have pulled it off. But that’s why my kids have memorable names.
If I’d thought about my personal branding as hard as my kid’s names, I’d probably have changed my first name to something ending in c too but the options for girls’ names ending in c are limited to unusual names like Lillac or Candy, so hopefully Annabel Candy’s good enough.
4 branding lessons From Coca-Cola
These are simple lessons, but you need to start with the basics and do it right if you want your personal branding to resonate with your target audience effectively. Don’t cut corners. Do it right from the beginning if you want to create a brand that people will love and remember, starting with these:
1. Choose a catchy and memorable name.
2. Choose eye-catching colors and patterns.
3. Be fun, not boring.
4. Consistently deliver quality products.
It seems impossible, but new smaller companies can and do create brands that send ripples across the world. I’m using Coca-Cola as an example for us to learn some solid lessons in branding. But I think the lessons we can learn from Coca-Cola, who just celebrated their 125th birthday, are equally true of newer companies, like Apple, that are now well known global brands, or Richard Branson’s company, Virgin, which is another fine example.