AS ONE of the world’s most recognized shapes turns a century old this year, The Coca-Cola Company (Coca-Cola) decided to launch a 15-country tour showcasing the art that is, and was inspired by, the Coke bottle.
Held Oct. 2-4 at the Bonifacio Global City (BGC) Amphitheater in Taguig City, the Bottle Art Tour features around 20 artworks from all over the world and 19 heritage Coca-Cola ads in the Philippines, shown for free in an experiential exhibit where visitors are offered Coke — in its signature bottle, of course — upon entry.
Among the artists whose works were displayed were Peter Blake (the creator of the Beatles’ iconic Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover — which depicted over a dozen personalities and celebrities — and the “Coke Side of Life” mural in London), pop art legend Andy Warhol, Norman Rockwell, Kate Brinkworth, and Haddon Sundblom, among others.
The patented bottle, while now an icon, started as a business decision, according to a presentation by Ted Ryan, Coca-Cola director of heritage communication, during the media launch of the exhibit on Oct. 2 at the Mango Tree Bistro in BGC.
“[The first Coca-Cola bottles] were straight… so it was a bottle that didn’t have any type of definition… and that’s what the imitators would copy… so to get away from that straight form, we created [the Coca-Cola bottle],” he said.
According to Mr. Ryan, the shape itself (called the “contour bottle”) was an accident, as Earl R. Dean of the Root Glass Company decided to base the bottle’s design on what they assumed was one of the drink’s main ingredients, cocoa.
The new bottle was launched Nov. 16, 1915. Now, the bottle and the beverage is known all over the world.
Mr. Ryan said one of the things that made the Coke very successful was the fact that the formula hasn’t changed —apart from the 1985 product change, which he described as their only blunder. The changed earned the public’s backlash as the people wanted the old formula back because of the nostalgia it evoked.
One of the artworks displayed in the tour was a print of Mr. Warhol and a bottle of Coke turned sideways, meant to be a protest against the new formula.
“Most people would remember the first time they had a Coke,” Mr. Ryan said, adding that protest moment was when the company realized the brand “belonged to the people.” As such, Coca-Cola brought back the old formula and made very little adjustments to the bottle.
“The curves are always there.”
“The secret formula [of Coke] is marketing and good management,” Mr. Ryan also said. He described Asa Griggs Candler, who bought out the beverage from its creator John Pemberton (who, in the late 19th century intended Coke to be a patent medicine), as a “marketing genius.” It was during Mr. Griggs’s time the equally iconic logo — “which hasn’t changed much,” said Mr. Ryan — was created by his accountant, Frank Robinson, using his own handwriting.
Mr. Candler sold the product to restaurants and stores that would then sell it to the public and also introduced the sample coupon, knowing that if people tasted the product, they would be keen to buy it. He also kept the prices low so Coke could be accessible to as many people as possible.
The product has also been involved in sponsoring sports and was the first commercial sponsor of the 1928 Olympic games in Amsterdam and other sports tournaments.
Today, the beverage is now sold in over 200 countries, territories, and principalities around the world, excluding Cuba and North Korea. — Z.B. Chua