Coca Cola: The Real Thing
Coca-Cola is an all-American product and its Classic Coca-Cola beverage recipe has withstood the tests of time, even shaking off efforts to make an improved “New Coke” formula. The American public wasn’t having any of it. “Classic is better” and “Keep the original” were cries that could be heard from across the country, as well as around the world.
In the vortex of the 20th century’s constant change it has been a source of reassurance to find a new points of stability, a few commodities not subject to the whims of fashion and planned obsolescence. The red and white Coca-Cola logo is instantly recognizable, a guarantee of standardization and an emblem of the American Way of Life, as potent as the Stars and Stripes itself.
Coca-Cola was Coca-Cola was definitely an American original and the most widely distributed mass-produced item in America when World War II began and the war provided an opportunity to spread the product into Europe and Asia. Its standardization of experience is both what we admire about its production, and what we occasionally dread about its effects.
When European conservatives inveighed against the incursions of crass American values into their ancient cultures, the Coca-Cola logo epitomized all that they resented, and for the young the very act of drinking Coke became a minor form of rebellion against stifling tradition.
Coke’s advertising tells us this carbonated syrup “Is It,” although we have not been told what “It” is. The formula is a long-held, well-guarded secret, and so it should be, because the foaming dark brown liquid is an elixir: Coke “Adds Life”. These famous artists from every era have created timeless Coke images of refreshment we know and love. Old Coca Cola prints from the National Geographic magazine featured timeless Coca Cola ads on their back covers 7 months of the year since the 1930’s. Things, whatever things are, “Go Better” with it.
They always did: a 1905 ad declared it to be “a delightful palatable healthful beverage. It relieves fatigue and is indispensable for business and professional men, students, wheelmen and athletes.”
Such claims might be disputed, but not for the drink’s supreme claim, the perfect ad-line for the perfect product, that Coca-Cola is “the Real Thing”. This is a triumph of the American corporation and advertising industry. If Coke is the Real Thing, what can we possibly call artificial or fake?