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Coca-Cola is the brand which perhaps best exemplifies global marketing.

It is enjoyed hundreds of millions of times a day by people all over the globe. It can be found almost anywhere in the world, from large cities to remote villages, across five continents. The Coca-Cola Company sells nearly half of all soft drinks consumed around the world. No other soft drinks company sells even half as much! The Coca-Cola Company has a number of important soft drinks brands, the best known of which are Coca-Cola, Diet Coke, Sprite, Fanta and Lilt. In Ireland, the Coca-Cola brand is the market leader in the carbonated soft drinks (CSD) market, with a market share of 25 per cent. Its next nearest competitor, 7-UP, has 17 per cent of the market and its nearest rival in the cola market, Pepsi, has 3 per cent market share. The Coca-Cola contour bottle is one of the brands key icons and is the symbol of the brands authenticity. It was developed in 1916 to create a distinct identity for the brand in consumers minds and to protect the brand from being imitated by competitors. Today it represents the very essence of the brands identity in the marketplace and remains instrumental in differentiating the brand from all other competing products. This business study describes the creation of the Coca-Cola contour bottle and how this contour bottle has become a central component of the consumer strategy for Coca- Cola. It exam in es h ow this Contourisation Strategy impacts on all aspects of the brands marketing mix. It describes the successful introduction of Coca-Cola into the Irish market and examines the reasons for the success of the more modern packaging format.

Thinking that the two Cs would look well in advertising, Dr Pembertons partner and bookkeeper, Frank M. Robinson, suggested the name and penned the now famous trademark Coca-Cola in his unique script. The first newspaper advertisement for Coca-Cola soon appeared in The Atlanta Journal, inviting thirsty citizens to try the new popular soda fountain drink. During the first year, sales averaged a modest nine drinks per day. In 1888 Dr Pemberton sold his interest in Coca-Cola to Asa G. Candler. Candler formed The Coca-Cola Company in 1892 and immediately invested all his energy into advertising and marketing the product. He distributed souvenir fans, calendars, clocks and countless other novelties, all depicting the Coca-Cola trademark. So successful were his efforts that by 1895, Coca-Cola was being drunk in every state and territory in the United States. As demand for the product grew, production was increased and it was made available in straight-sided bottles. The bottling of Coca-Cola meant it could be consumed virtually anywhere. Consumption was no longer restricted to soda fountains. However, this led to a new problem. How could Coca-Cola be protected from its imitators? Early advertisements warned of the perils of poor imitations. Demand the genuine and Accept no substitutes reminded consumers to accept nothing less than the real thing. However, as soft drink competition intensified, so did imitation. What was needed was a distinctive form of packaging for the bottle. This would prevent Coca-Cola from inferior imitations.

The Coca-Cola bottle creation of a design icon

The now well-known bottle was designed by the Root Glass Company according to a brief which required: a Coca-Cola bottle which a person will recognise as a Coca-Cola bottle even if he feels it in the dark. The Coca-Cola bottle should be so shaped that, even if broken, a person could tell at a glance what it was. Swedish-born bottling plant superintendent Alex Samuelson gathered design ideas based on the main contents of the Coca-Cola drink. He researched illustrations of a cocoa bean, created designs and then passed them on to the Root Glass Companys mould supervisor, Earl Dean. The Coca-Cola Company approved the shape of the bottle in 1916. The curves, grooves and flutes of the glass bottle were unlike anything else. The design was unique and an icon was born. Most importantly, however, no one could imitate the new Coca-Cola bottle because it was patented.

The Coca-Cola Trademark

A trademark is a design and/or words, used to identify a company or a product. A trademark is protected by legal registration. This enables it to be used exclusively by the holder of the trademark. Any imitation of a trademark is an illegal activity. The familiar shape of the Coca-Cola bottle and the flowing script of its trademark are the worlds most widely recognised commercial symbols. Coca-Cola is recognised by 94 per cent of the earths population, and Coca-Cola is the second most universally understood phrase after OK! The Coca-Cola trademark incorporates a number of elements which have become synonymous with the brand. These include:

Coca-Colas uniquely shaped contour bottle

The packaging of a product serves a number of functions. At the most basic level, it contains and protects a product. However, packaging is also an important marketing tool. It is critical in describing a product, attracting consumer attention and differentiating the product from competitors. The Coca-Cola contour bottle is perhaps one of the most unique forms of product packaging. While it was originally introduced as a means of protecting the brand from imitation, it is now the most central part of the Coca-Cola brand identity. The bottle communicates the uniqueness, originality, superior refreshment and enduring values of the brand. A market research survey was carried out to examine consumers attitudes to the contour shape. In this survey, consumers described the contour bottle as communicating a variety of positive meanings. It was seen as:

The Coca-Cola bottle The shape of the century

Business 2000

the Coca-Cola red and white graphics the Coca-Cola brand name written in the universally known Spencarian Script th e fa m o u s c o n to u r s h a p e o f th e Coca-Cola bottle.

Together, these elements are instrumental in differentiating Coca-Cola from all other competing brands.


a symbol of the ultimate enjoyment and refreshment from Coca-Cola possessing a sensual look and feel a symbol of good times universally known and universally accepted a symbol which unites consumers around the world an aesthetically beautiful symbol.

The Contourisation Strategy

So important is the contour shape in the marketplace, that it is now the core element of Coca-Colas consumer strategy. This has become known as the Contourisation Strategy. The strategy involves using the contour shape to emphasise the uniqueness of Coca-Cola over other competing products and to communicate to consumers the core benefits of the brand: Coca-Cola contour is the most refreshing beverage delivered in the most refreshing way. Coca-Cola in a contour bottle is a guarantee of the ultimate refreshment experience. The objectives of the Contourisation Strategy are to: 1. motivate consumers to purchase the Coca-Cola brand over other soft drink brands 2. maximise consumer enjoyment of the Coca-Cola product 3. create a distinct identity for Coca-Cola in the mind of the consumer.

The early years

Dr John Styth Pemberton, a pharmacist in Atlanta, Georgia, invented Coca-Cola in 1886. According to legend, he produced the syrup for Coca-Cola in a three-legged brass pot in his backyard. He carried a jug of the new product down the street to Jacobs pharmacy. It was sampled, pronounced excellent and placed on sale for five cents a glass as a soda fountain drink. Whether by design or accident, carbonated water was teamed with the new syrup to produce a drink that was at once described as both Delicious and Refreshing.

John S. Pemberton, the creator of Coca-Cola in 1886.

Soda Fountain from which Coca-Cola was first sold in 1895.






The Contourisation Strategy in action

The unique contour shape of the Coca-Cola bottle is reinforced and communicated throughout every element of the brands marketing mix. This ranges from promotional and advertising strategies right through to the distribution of the product in retail outlets. Some examples of this are outlined below.

Coca-Cola and Coke are registered trademarks of The Coca-Cola Company.

driving, walking around town or just hanging out with friends. The message to the consumer was have you grabbed one yet?.

The Outcome
Since its launch, Coca-Cola in 500ml PET

in nearly 200 countries and producing hundreds of millions of servings a day, the Coca-Cola brand is without doubt one of the most successful marketing stories of the 20th Century. The Contourisation Strategy and the introduction of Coca-Cola in 5 0 0 ml PET fo rma t a re tw o mo re successful additions to this wonderful story.


Describe the activities which helped 1 to establish the early success of Coca-Cola in the marketplace. Outline the reasons why a distinctive form of packaging was required for Coca-Cola in the earlier years.

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Republic of Ireland Total Market Share of 330ml & 500ml (all brands) Price
Price is only one element in the value equation for the consumer. The 500ml bottle does not cost more than the 330ml can in terms of price per 100ml, and thus delivers additional value through the convenience, portability etc. of its packaging format. This supports the value proposition on other factors than price alone.
Contour bottle always used in advertising.

The marketing mix and the Coca-Cola contour shape

Product Packaging
The key consumer packages for Coca-Cola are now all available in contour shape. The image of the contour bottle also appears on 330ml Coca-Cola aluminium cans. The contour bottle is a key element of the Always Disc, which serves as a signature of authenticity in all packaging and advertising for Coca-Cola.

Examine the key success factors behind the design of the contour bottle. (a) Explain what is meant by the term trademark. (b) Outline the advantages of having the logo of a company or product protected by a trademark. (a) Describe the various elements of the Coca-Cola trademark. (b) Examine the reasons why the Coca-Cola trademark is the worlds most widely recognised commercial symbol. (a) List the various functions of product packaging. (b) Outline the different messages which are communicated through the Coca-Cola contour package.



The screw top cap made the product much more portable and allowed it to be consumed in any situation. This created a whole new range of consumer occasions in which Coca-Cola could be consumed. As a result, an entirely new user base of customers began to consume the product. An advertising campaign was designed for the launch, which reflected the products benefits of portability and flexibility. The campaign was designed to communicate that Coca-Cola in PET contour format could be consumed whether playing sport,

In retail stores, a merchandising plan exists which places the Coca-Cola contour bottle in the most prominent shelf position in refrigerators. This is designed to maximise the impact and appeal of the product at the most important stage in the consumer decision-making process - the point of sale.

The contour bottle features in all advertisements for Coca-Cola. It is also used on every form of promotional material targeted at both consumers and the retail trade. The Always Disc is a power f ul consistent f eatur e in all advertising and promotional materials.

format has achieved phenomenal sales success. The 500ml category now represents 13% of the total CSD market. The growth of the category has been driven by Coca-Cola. What is perhaps most remarkable about this success is that the growth has not come at the expense of sales of any other impulse products in the Coca-Cola range a situation known as cannibalisation. Instead, its growth in sales has been achieved by:

Contour in a modern package format

In 1994, Coca-Cola was launched in Ireland in a 500ml PET (polyethylene terephthalate) contour format. This introduction was a key component of the Contourisation Strategy and was important for two reasons:

O u tlin e th e o b je c tiv e s o f th e Contourisation Strategy. Describe how these objectives were fulfilled.

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attracting a whole new group of consumers to experience Coca-Cola in a refreshing and convenient package format encouraging existing Coca-Cola drinkers to consume more of the product by providing it in a larger format, which can be consumed on any occasion encouraging existing Coca-Cola drinkers to drink the product on more occasions because of th e a d d e d convenience of a resealable bottle.

Take a brand of your choice and describe how the various elements of its marketing mix (product, price, place, promotion and packaging) communicate its brand identity. Examine the reasons behind the phenomenal success of Coca-Cola in 500ml PET contour format.

The PET bottle format provided the ideal opportunity to translate all of the symbols and meanings associated with the original glass contour bottle into a modern package design. The message to the consumer was that the original Coca-Cola taste could now be enjoyed in a modern Coca-Cola package. The promise to the consumer is that Coca-Cola in contour is the ultimate thirst quenching and refreshing experience. The launch of the 500ml PET contour bottle also created an entirely new sales opportunity for Coca-Cola. This packaging format was immediately perceived by consumers as a much more convenient way to consume Coca-Cola.


(a) Explain what is meant by the term cannibalisation. (b) Outline how Coca-Cola in PET contour format enjoyed sales growth without cannibalising sales of other Coca-Cola products.

500ml PET launch advertising.

What lessons can other companies 11 learn from the Coca-Cola business study?
While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of information contained in this case study, no liability shall attach to either The Irish Times Ltd or Woodgrange Consultants Ltd for any errors or omissions in this case study.

Merchandising of products in cooler cabinets.

The Coca-Cola Company began building its global network in the 1920s. Now operating

Coca-Cola in 200ml glass and 500ml PET contour bottles.

Business 2000