“There’s nothing like a Coca-Cola…”
Whilst the adverts of the 1950s appealed to consumers (ignore the sexism!) via connotations of feeling refreshed and consumer satisfaction, marketing in the 1990s for Coca-Cola charmingly enticed publics to join in a new wave of technology: computer animation. The advertisement below is the first computer animated advert by Coca-Cola, utilising polar bears.
At this time, the internet was a relatively new technology in domestic households. The dial-up connection to the internet through the phone line seem archaic to the broadband network we know today. Before social media, public relation practitioners would rely greatly on radio, television and magazine/ newspaper advertising. Because of this pre ‘social media’ period, the relationship between publics and stakeholders was based on a one-way line of communication.
Mangold and Faud (2009) state that public relation communications mainly focussed on the relationship between the companies and stakeholders, rather than the relationship between the publics and the stakeholders (p.359). Pre social media, consumerism was limited and influenced by what the producers and advertisers would have to say about their product, resulting in a superficial marketplace with minimal discourse (p. 359).
The “Always Coke” campaign is reflective of this time in the public relations sphere. Whilst the enemy: Pepsi, engaged with consumers by demonstrating taste tests, Coca-Cola continued to focus on traditional ways of connecting with publics by appealing to family wholesomeness. The Polar Bear campaign innovatively changed the dynamic of advertising with representing Coca-Cola alongside the innocence, playfulness and fun of a cute and recognizable animal.
Over the next decade, Coca-Cola would develop the iconic Polar Bear into a mascot, which really saw the beginning of social interactivity between publics as consumers and stakeholders. For example, people could be photographed with the Coca-Cola Polar Bear mascot, just like any superhero character at a theme park.
The adoption of the polar bear even lead to Coca-Cola teaming up with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in 2007, in a bid to protect polar bears and their natural habitats. With social media usage rising, Coca-Cola found another way to bridge the gap between publics and stakeholders by appealing to consumers charitable side through the promotion of a worthy cause, in partnership with a reputable organisation. Publics can make contributions to the cause via the Canadian WWF webpage Artic Home, which features the Coca-Cola logo. This campaign affirmed Coca-Cola as not just a ‘brand’, but as a corporation harbouring not only their consumer’s best interests, but also the global community.
Mangold W.G & Faulds D.J 2009, Social media: the new hybrid element of the promotion mix, Business Horizons, vol. 52, p. 359