Aired Dec. 3, 2011 on Dave’s Gone By. Youtube clip: Coca Cola
Shalom Dammit! This is Rabbi Sol Solomon with a Rabbinical Reflection for the week of December 4th, 2011.
You know what the easiest job in the world is? No, not ranting on the radio, I don’t get paid for that. The easiest job in the world is selling Coca Cola. It’s been around for a hundred years, everybody drinks it, every grocery stocks it… You go into a shack in Malawi and say, “Barack Obama,” they look at you like you’re from another planet, but you say “Coca Cola” – oh, they start dancing around, they’re laughing, they want you to marry their cousin.
Selling Coca Cola is as easy as saying, “Hi, you wanna buy some Coca Cola?” Yes, you have Pepsi as a competitor, and those 99-cent, two-liter generic brands that SAY they’re cola, but we all know, it’s just Rustoleum with corn syrup. Financially, Coke might have a great year, or it might have an almost-great year, but really, it’s like asking the Sultan of Brunei at his roulette game, “Did you lose $3,000 or $30,000?” Either way, he’s not losing any sleep. Unless he drinks Coca Cola, in which case the caffeine will keep him up if the harem girls won’t.
So okay. Here is how you sell Coca Cola. You concoct it, you mix it, you put it in the bottle, you ship it from the factory, and you cash the checks. The beverage itself may have a secret formula, but everybody knows Coke’s formula for success – Step One: give people what they want and what they have always wanted. Step Two: Repeat step one.
Now, we all remember years ago when the marketing geniuses at Coke felt they had to justify their inflated salaries by doing something new. To be fair, it can’t be much fun promoting an item when you know deep down the marketing strategy you’ve used for the past ten years you could really use for the next fifty. And in the advertising and PR world, nobody gets a bonus for thinking inside the box. Unfortunately, in the real world, you know who thinks outside the box? Homeless people. They sleep in a box, then they go outside it to think. And you know what some of them are thinking? They’re thinking, “Shit, I used to be an executive at Coca Cola, until I invented New Coke.”
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? It’s one of the oldest sayings in the world, and if you think you know better, if you think you’re gonna prove the world wrong, get ready if you fail to fall on your tush into a cardboard box. Twenty-six years ago New Coke hit the market like a bottle of cancer, and it’s been an industry laughing stock – and object lesson – ever since.
So you’d figure the Coke folks would learn from their mistake. Red label, white letters, brown fizz, rule the world. But no, in the news this week was a story about Coca Cola using a special design for the holidays. Instead of a red background, they went with a white background and red letters, plus those cute little polar bears. All well and good, except the public took one look and said, “Wait a minute… is this regular Coke or Diet Coke?” Somehow the scientific gurus in the Coca Cola utility research kitchen missed the fact that white cans equals low-calorie equals tastes like battery acid. So people started bitching and writing to the company and returning the cans demanding the old stuff.
Weirder still – even people who were not confusing the regular with the diet, even when they knew it was the same stuff, some of them complained the cola tastes different in the silver can. Don’t ask me if it’s psychological or maybe the old red cans still have traces of cocaine in them, all I know is that it’s been another PR nightmare for Coke. They’ve had to go back and reinstate the red cans, and somebody in R&D is getting a lump of coal for their Christmas bonus.
Now, I don’t have a problem with innovation, but it seems all the innovations these days are negative ones. Ooh, let’s take a ten-ounce bag of potato chips and put only eight ounces of chips in it while charging the same price. American ingenuity at its finest. Or all these HDTV 3D television sets. You can watch a Pixar movie; it looks like you’ve jumped into their universe. However, almost everything else you watch is in one-D, low definition, so your fifty-inch Samsung has all the visual beauty of a hallway security monitor. And don’t get me started on airplanes charging you extra for a sandwich, more inches of legroom and a place to stow your luggage. America is innovating us out of house and home.
Again, it’s not as if the Coca Cola people started sneaking Ex-Lax into the formula. They wouldn’t have to, but even so. And it’s not as if they did something racist or dangerous or mean-spirited. They just wanted Coke to be part of the seasonal onslaught of merry merchandising. Skeptical people might say they had nothing to lose from the design disaster. If it worked, if it worked. When it didn’t, look at all the free, and not especially damaging, publicity they got. Maybe it was all part of some master plan to keep Coke in the news.
I’m not that cynical, I’ll grant them an honest mistake, but either way, if they want to sell their product, save money and have the simplest marketing plan imaginable, all they have to do is hire me. I work cheap and I work smart. I will sit there at my desk and ask the different departments the only questions that matter: “Does Coca Cola still taste disgustingly sweet yet refreshingly corrosive?” “On Thanksgiving, can you fry a turkey or a moose in it?” “Is it still a dentist’s best friend?” “Can it still remove the paint from a 1987 Ford Taurus?” Yes? Great – sign my paycheck, we’re good for a decade. Oh, and pour me another Dr. Brown’s Crème Soda – regular, not diet, extra foam, and don’t be Jewish with the ice cubes.
This has been a Rabbinical Reflection from Rabbi Sol Solomon, Temple Sons of Bitches.
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