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Pushing Coke on eBay
To feed my habit, I've resorted to pushing Coke on eBay.
Before the HubPages vice squad swoops down on yours truly, allow me to clarify my outrageous admission.
The compelling addiction I'm referring to is the online marketing of Coca-Cola vintage print ads.
Arguably, this particular subcategory of the collectible advertising memorabilia niche has the broadest and most popular appeal of all among serious ephemera enthusiasts.
Why are Coca-Cola vintage print ads so appealing? To understand this iconic phenomenon, an abbreviated yet comprehensive historical overview is in order.
A Coca-Cola Timeline
My time machine is running on fumes, so--quickly now!--step into my chronological jalopy as I take you on a quick nostalgia-riddled journey into the land of yesteryear. And while my machine lacks adequate and cushy seating, I invite you to use your imagination as you reach into the netting under your seat and pull out an ice-cold familiar-shaped bottle of that famous caramel-colored beverage.
- 1886 Motivated by a potent mixture of curiosity and innovation, Atlanta pharmacist, John Pemberton, concocts a fragrant, caramel-colored liquid and introduces it to Jacobs Pharmacy.
- The pharmacy adds carbonated water to the solution and offers up samples to customers who immediately take a liking to the new drink.
- Frank Robinson, Pemberton's bookkeeper, dubs the surprisingly popular beverage, Coca-Cola , and scripted the name with his unique and distinguished flair. To this day, the original handwriting style remains the same.
- In the first year, Pemberton sells 9 glasses a day.
- 1888 Atlanta businessman, Asa Griggs Candler, buys the right to make a tonic and headache remedy called Coca-Cola.
- 1893 Candler employs brilliant outside the box entrepreneurial strategies to market his beverage. He links traditional items such as apothecary scales, urns, clocks, calendars, and other household items with the Coca-Cola brand. In addition, he gives away coupons for complimentary first drinks. The plan works, and his pharmacist distributors soon generate tremendous sales volumes.
- 1894 Joseph Biedenharn, a Mississsippi businessman, puts Coca-Cola in bottles and sends twelve of these portable units to Candler who is not impressed and fails to see the potential value.
- 1899 For the paltry sum of $1, two Chattanooga attorneys, Joseph Whitehead and Benjamin Thomas, purchase the exclusive rights from Candler to bottle and sell the beverage.
- 1916 To protect their product from being duplicated by entrepreneurial pirates , the Coca-Cola Company sponsors a contest for an original bottle shape. The winning entry is submitted by The Root Bottle Company of Terre Haute, Indiana. It is the famous contour bottle, chosen for its unique and shapely design, attractive appearance, and the fact that one could identify the genuine article even in the dark.
- 1920 In addition to its presence in the U.S. territories, Coca-Cola now has 1,000 plants in Canada, Panama, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and other countries.
- 1923 Ernest Woodruff becomes the company president. He leads the expansion of Coca-Cola overseas.
- The Coca-Cola six-pack is introduced.
- 1928 In Amsterdam, Coca-Cola is featured in the 1928 Olympic Games for the first time.
- 1929 The first officially approved open-top cooler, holding 36 bottles of Coca-Cola, is introduced.
- 1941 In honor and support of our troops at war, Woodruff issues a Company mandate: "...every man in uniform gets a bottle of Coca-Cola for 5 cents, wherever he is, and whatever it costs the Company."
- Post WW II - 1960 The number of countries with Coca-Cola bottling operations nearly doubles during this period. America's post-war optimism and prosperity are reflected and underscored in the Company's upbeat print advertisements.
- 1971 The entire decade of the seventies is a time of tremendous expansion for the Coca-Cola Company. The multi-media advertising reflects a spirit of good, clean fun; social connectivity on a global basis; and happy times. The international goodwill spirit of the Company is embodied in a 1971 commercial featuring a group of young people from all over the world on a hilltop in Italy singing, I'd Like to Buy the World a Coke.
- 1978 Coca-Cola has the distinguished honor of being the only company in the world that can sell packaged cold drinks in the People's Republic of China.
- 1981 Robert Goizueta, a Cuban exile, becomes CEO of the Coca-Cola Company. He introduces a strategy of intelligent risk taking . He organizes all bottling operations into a new public company, Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc. He introduces Diet Coke which soon becomes the top low-calorie drink in the world.
- 1985 Goizueta introduces a new Coca-Cola formula. While it proves to be a preference in taste tests, people clamored for the original recipe. Criticized for making a huge business blunder, Coca-Cola responds by re-introducing the old formula as Coke Classic.
- 1990s Coca-Cola is the darling of the sports world, strengthening its world prominence with ties to the Olympic Games, the NBA, NASCAR racing, and international soccer and rugby.
- 1990 Coca-Cola develops a presence in East Germany.
- 1993 Always Coca-Cola advertising program as well as the Coca-Cola Polar Bear icon are introduced to the world.
- Coca-Cola products return to India.
- The Company acquires new beverage products from various parts of the world--e.g., Powerade, Dasani, and Barq's in the United States; Thums Up in India; Inca Kola in Peru; and Cadbury Schweppes in more than 120 countries around the globe.
- 1997 On a daily basis, the Company sells one billion servings of its products.
- 2006 Coke Side of Life , a Coca-Cola promotional program advocating for people to make positive choices each and every day, is introduced.
- 2009 With the successful television music program, American Idol , serving as a springboard, a new promotional program for Coca-Cola featuring contemporary musicians--Open Happiness --is introduced to the world.
- TODAY Coke continues to be the world's largest nonalcoholic beverage company.
The Innate Charisma of Coca-Cola
In the section above, I shared with you the highlights of the corporate history of Coca-Cola and how aggressive marketing campaigns nurtured its phenomenal growth over the last century and a half.
Now I'd like to present a personal narrative of why I think Coke is number one in its respective field.
From the ages of 8 to 11, I participated in Little League baseball in the Kawaihau District on the east side of the island of Kaua'i, back when we weren't accustomed to using the apostrophe in Hawaiian proper nouns and when life, it seemed, moved at a much slower, laid back, pace.
In my first two years, I had an abundance of baby fat and was big for my age. With the islander pudginess came the close cousins--Slow and Awkward. I was uncoordinated, lacked any semblance of natural athleticism, and had ambivalent feelings about sports in general. In my latter two years, I was leaner and taller, and I had a certain je ne sais quois prepubescent edge to me that contributed to my success as a pitcher. Maybe I had grown tired of constantly being teased and called names like Dancing Bear (an apt description of my nervousness at the plate as I trembled at the thought of every pitch hitting me). The repressed shame and anger of those early years contributed to my revenge as a strikeout ace in the last two years.
In both good and bad times, I liked the exhilaration of dressing up each Saturday morning in my Philadelphia Phillies maroon and gray uniform, complete with the slotted leggings that went over the white socks and were strategically held in place with elastic garters. Over this, I wore my pants with the elastic cuffs that were rolled up just below the knees so that an overhang from the resulting slack at the bottom of the pants could be rolled down to form a pseudo-hem at the top of the shin. Just like the pros wore their pants during the late '50's and early '60's.
My Cub Scouts belt with the shiny brass buckle was a perfect accessory for the pants. A white T-shirt was necessary to serve as a buffer between the scratchy material of the uniform top and my skin. Just like my neighborhood friend and teammate, Keith Furugen, had taught me, I placed a baseball trading card on the inside front of my baseball cap to form a subtle yet sturdy rise, prominently showing off the scripted P decal just above the visor.
Dressing up for the game was always a ritual for me. I used to watch my father put on his police uniform with the same kind of authority--that sensation of the common man donning a superhero costume and becoming bigger than life...no longer the man but a powerful symbol of authority that commanded one's respect.
I'd catch a ride with my parents or with friends to Kapa'a town where our baseball field was located near the National Guard Armory and across the street from acres of sugar cane fields.
On days when my father had to work, however, I'd ride my bike--a short jaunt of two miles. Invariably, I'd stop by a Japanese mom and pop shop and spend 35 cents on an apple turnover and a bottle of Coke. This was my pre-game ritual, something I convinced myself was the key to having a successful day at the park.
We always had one of the games in the Saturday tripleheader. Win or lose, one of the team parents would always donate snacks and sodas for us players.
Coke was my favorite soft drink. If I was drinking it at home, I enjoyed the beverage on ice. If I had just played a tough ballgame or was on a picnic or a camping trip at the beach, I loved drinking it straight from a bottle that had been sitting on ice or in ice cold water.
I loved the popping sound of the cap as the bottle opener pried it from the glass. I loved the look and sound of the brown fizz and the slight vapor that escaped from the mouth of the bottle. I loved putting the contoured bottle to my face, the condensation mingling with my sweat and shocking me with the sudden marriage of disparate temperatures.
Most of all, I loved that first touch of the lips to the opening in the bottle, the indescribable vacuum seal of puckered warm flesh on frigid glass, the quick scent of caramel mixed with sweet unknowns, the way the liquid flirted with the tongue and taste buds before sliding down my hot parched throat, deliciously satiating my insides with a paradoxical sensation of delicious burning mixed with delectable cooling.
Coca-Cola was more than just about drinking a soda pop. It was triumph personified!
Is it any wonder, then, that half a century later, I have a special affinity for pushing Coke on eBay?
In Case You've Ever Wondered...
Yes, Virginia, once upon a time, there used to be cocaine in Coca-Cola.
At the time of its pharmaceutical coming out party, the two principal ingredients of Coca-Cola were cocaine and caffeine. The cocaine was extracted from the coca leaf, and the caffeine came from the kola nut.
Pemberton's original formula called for five ounces of coca leaf per gallon of syrup. When Candler took over, he lowered that portion to about half an ounce per gallon. Coca-Cola once contained approximately nine millimeters of cocaine per glass. In 1903, cocaine was forever removed from the Coca-Cola recipe...or so the record claims.
As an entrepreneur of these aesthetically appealing and happy-go-lucky vintage print ads, I'm taking a second look at the smiles on those beaming faces. After all, Coca Cola maintains that a part of its recipe is still veiled in secrecy.
So you really have to wonder...
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