I must admit that I was rather shocked when I first saw this poster. ‘Surely not!’ If COKE has no artificial additives or preservatives, the cynic in me thought, what does? And, what IS in Coke, then?
The truth is, I have always liked the taste and the ‘hit’ of an ice cold Coke. Probably because we never had it at home, but every once in a while I got to have a Coke in the club house as a reward for trailing after my dad around the golf course. A real treat, 'the real thing' indeed.
But we are all now told that Coke and other carbonated soft drinks are Not Good For You, unlike water which is Good For You. Hence I try (and probably fail) to drink enough water every day. (And I am still unclear how much water is ‘enough’ to drink per day. Especially now that someone on 'The Amazing Hydration Diet' just won £800,000 compensation after suffering irreperable brain damage.)
Hence, Coke and other manufacturers trying to get into water and still drinks. Sorry, beverages. Coca-Cola paid $4.1 billion for Vitaminwater maker Glaceau last June. Although Coke’s water brand, Dansani, failed in Dell-Boy style in the UK, it is the number two brand of bottled water in the USA (after PepsiCo’s Aquafina).
As we all know, it started out as a medicine (in 1886), used to contain cocaine and was advertised as 'a brain tonic, a cure for all nervous affections ... including hysteria and melancholy'. And it is still rather effective as a floor cleaner. Or so the rumours have it.
An email has become very popular recently on the subject of Coke vs water. Among the ‘facts’ quoted are:
- In many states in the USA the highway patrol carries two gallons of Cola in the truck to remove blood from the highway after a car accident.
- You can put a T-bone steak in a bowl of ‘Cola’ and it will be gone in two days.
Another website, truthorfiction.com has disputed these two facts as ‘unproven’, but it attests to the truth of the other surprising claims on the Coke vs water site.
Coca Cola themselves direct people to their online forum called (oddly) letsgettogether on which they list the ingredients of Coke, adding helpful descriptions, as follows:
- Carbonated water for refreshing hydration
- Sugar for sweetness
- Caffeine for a slightly bitter taste
- Phosphoric acid for a tangy taste
- Caramel (E150d) for colour
- Natural flavourings
Is that the end of it? Not if you are a Detractor and you say that the problem with drinks such as Coke is the amount of sugar, caffeine and phosphoric acid it contains. The key thing is that the two sides in the ‘Coke vs water’ debate are about as far apart as it is possible to get. The Coca Cola Corporation on one side and anti-corporate/ health fanatics on the other side.
But 99% of the population are in between these two extremes. I am not convinced that too many people would visit letsgettogether (why?) or would be highly swayed if they did. But, the poster and the website are well designed and may go some way to rein in the Doubters.
Coca Cola is not alone in its fight to maintain its reputation (and profits) in the age of changing consumer expectations. McDonald’s has always come under particular scrutiny and is another brand that some people love to hate. Their own version of a website which ‘answers any questions you may have’ about McDonald’s is rather better than Coke’s version, in my opinion. Make up your own mind here.
I am inclined to think that both websites are examples of the growing influence of increasingly well informed consumers in a smarter, 2.0 age. Rather than examples of companies finding more credible ways to pull the wool over our eyes.
So maybe the truth is not 'out there'. It is dancing invisibly between us, in the conversation.
(* someone, somewhere has probably calculated something along these lines!)