Around the corner from everywhere: celebrating 100 years of the Coke bottle

Around the corner from everywhere: celebrating 100 years of the Coke bottle
If you were to drive your car across New Zealand, along the way sporadically visiting small towns with populations rarely exceeding 87 people, you’d encounter an assortment of experiences that vary as much as the topographical makeup of our two islands. But no matter how different each of these pitstops might be, one thing that you will almost invariably see wherever you go is Coca-Cola bottle.

From fridges of national supermarkets to those in tiny village dairies, the easily recognisable Coke bottle has become a veritable part of the Kiwi landscape (unfortunately, sometimes in the form of litter on the floor).  

Looking at the ubiquity of the brand today, it seems that the early copywriters who in 1927 chose the slogan ‘Around the corner from everywhere’ were perhaps gifted with clairvoyance, because this statement would over the decades stretch and become relevant well beyond the US market in which they were writing.

Although the Coca-Cola brand was first founded in 1886, it wasn’t until 1915 when the contour bottle that now typifies the brand was patented and introduced to the market. 

Upon deciding to redesign its earlier, plainer bottles, the Trustees of the Coca-Cola Bottling Association offered the then-substantial sum of $500 to an agency that could design a “bottle so distinct that you would recognise if by feel in the dark or lying broken on the ground.”

The Root Glass Company—which consisted of C.J and William Root, Alexander Samuelson, Earl Dean and Clyde Edwards—eventually developed the winning design by emulating the elongated shape and distinct ribs of the cocoa bean. 

"Design is really about solving a problem—it has to have a commercial output," says James Somerville, the vice president of Design at The Coca-­Cola Company. "And in this case, Coca-Cola delivered a unique design that nobody could match."

Sommerville says that good design is meant to start conversations and nudge people into having opinions on matter—and this is exactly what the original design of the Coca Cola bottle did. When it arrived, its uniqueness immediately stood out, and Sommerville concedes that some customers probably took a little longer to warm up to a design that could easily have been described as strange.

"It's human to avoid change. We're creatures of pattern. But we need extreme thinkers to challenge us. And when the new bottle was released, it quite possibly was a scary moment [for the company], but this is always the case with disruption."    

It wasn’t until 1939, when Coca-Cola opened its first bottling operation in New Zealand, that Kiwis were able to get their hands on the bottle on a regular basis. 

The arrival of the brand in Aoeteroa coincided with World War II, and in its early days the company produced Coke for US troops on leave while fighting in the Pacific—and an early ad titled ‘Have a coke = Kia Ora’ gives a nod to these early relations between the Pacific people and the soldiers.
 
Later, the local advertising moved away from war and took on a more sunny disposition. The tradition of the good-looking smiling people that are still seen in Coke ads today started in print, with ads showing everyone from tennis players to office workers being excessively happy while glugging away on bottle of the drink.

‘Stop for a lift’, ‘When you pause … Coca-Cola really refreshes’ and ‘Let Coca-Cola put you at your sparkling best’ are just some of the older branding phrases that preceded the more recent examples like ‘Enjoy Coca-Cola’ and ‘Share a Coke’.  

And given that Coca-Cola still occupies large sections of shelf space at stores across the country, we’re likely to see a few more slogans added to this growing canon in years to come.

Coca-Cola has now released an international campaign called Mash Up, which was developed through an extensive collaborative process involving a plethora of international creatives.

“We approached creative minds from around the world and asked them to recreate iconic Coca-­Cola artwork from the last 100 years," says Sommerville. "We wanted to celebrate our past while simultaneously writing our future through design. The final selected pieces of artwork both surprised and delighted us with their diversity and authenticity.”    

Playing out to reworked version of Wham's 'Wake me up before you go go', the new TVC brings the Mash Up images to life through a vibrant animation. In addition, the multi-million-dollar campaign also includes new point-of-sale material; digital media, including homepage takeovers and 3D displays; and a high-profile OOH including a pop-art installation at Britomart as well as special out-of-home ads made from PET bottles.

The pop-art gallery will be on show at Britomart from 23 August, and it will link to the Coke.co.nz where consumers will be able to access additional information on the creation of the various designs.   

The article originally appeared on Stoppress.