Highlights of a Visit to the Coca-cola Museum
I spent $28 this morning on a VIP tour of The World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta, Georgia. I was absolutely blown away. The brand is a true American work of art. It started as cocaine; they removed the cocaine; and yet it still sells like cocaine. For more information and insight I highly recommend "For God, Country, and Coca-Cola" by Mark Pendergast.
- •The tour begins with an abstract 7 minute film about the Coca-Cola brand. It is the only part of the tour during which we are told pictures are prohibited. The film is a dialogue-free montage of emotional, inspiring moments from the lives of different people, set to music. I cried constantly. It was the most purely positive film I have ever seen.In "For God, Country, and Coca-Cola," Pembergast explains how early Coca-Cola advertising broke away from a trend of negative advertisements, highlighting ailments and social status problems that needed correcting, with "The Pause That Refreshes" and other similarly positive slogans.
- •This is a rite of passage field trip for Atlanta schoolchildren. Early in the tour, a guide quizzes the children: "If someone asks you who founded Coca-Cola, what do you say?" "Dr. John Pemberton!!"I can't imagine they would see any difference between this man's importance and any one of the Founding Fathers'. (Am I becoming more of a moral relativist, or do I love brands too much, or do we now know too much about the Founding Fathers, to say that this didn't bother me?)
- •The next stop of the tour is where you get your picture taken with the polar bear made famous from Coke ads. "This is the whole reason I came here," said one boy on the tour. (That boy was not me.)
- •The formula for Coke in the United States is standardized at a 5:1 ratio of water-to-syrup with one big exception: McDonald's insists on a sweeter ratio of 4.7:1.3 and is allowed to do this.
- •In 1931, Coca-Cola set out to reverse their typically collapsed winter sales. They hired artist Haddon Sundblom to paint Santa Claus with a Coca-Cola. The only guideline: Santa needs to be wearing the trademark Coca-Cola colors of red and white. THIS IS WHY WE THINK OF SANTA AS WEARING RED AND WHITE TO THIS DAY.
- •Interesting side fact about Haddon Sundblom: he used himself as the model for Santa, and did the same for his commission to draw the Quaker Oats man.
- •I appreciated that they gave special attention to the man who invented and hand-drew the iconic cursive script, now the most recognized trademark in the world.The trademark was subsequently replicated in paintings by both Norman Rockwell and Andy Warhol, the former commissioned, the latter not.
- •Our tour guide artfully breezed past the origin of the drink with lightning speed, saying only that the name had a nice ring to it and came from the names of its two principal ingredients.Not mentioned: the two principal ingredients were coca leaf (cocaine) and kola nut (caffeine). Dr. Pemberton was a doctor, after all (as well as a morphine addict), and Coca-Cola was only one of his many medicinal drinks designed as an alternative to alcohol in the early days of the temperance movement.
- •Much is made of "The Vault," where the secret recipe for Coca-Cola is supposedly stored. There are animated security clearances, alarms - the works.Showmanship aside, the formula is indeed closely guarded. Coke removed itself from the enormous Indian market for 20 years to avoid showing the formula to its government. The only non-employee civilian to ever be shown the formula was an American rabbi, in 1935, who needed to see it in order to certify the drink as kosher.
- •Coca-Cola CEO Robert Woodroof invented the concept of the 6-pack in 1923. At that time, a typical nuclear family has six people: a father, a mother, three children, and a mother-in-law.
- •The term "soda pop" was apparently inspired by the "pop!" sound that resulted when the glass bottle of Coke was popped open.
- •Coca-Cola approached Charles Schultz with the idea of creating an animated Christmas special that they would sponsor.
- •There is a movie theater where they play a continuous loop of Coke ads from around the world.This is in addition to the introductory film and the "4D" film towards the end.
- •The famous grand finale of the tour is a room where you can try unlimited free samples of Coca-Cola products from around the world.
- •My personal favorite was Bon Bon Anglais from Madagascar.
- •And then... a gift shop?!? When did this place get so commercial?!?