November 26, 2007

Have a Coke and a ???!

Secret documents forwarded to me by Secret Document Forwarding Services, International (1919 Rue de la Suspect Lettuce, Planchettes du Nord, France) detail the excruciating decision the good people at the Coca-Cola Company faced in trying to determine the proper ending to their famous "Have a Coke and a Smile" tagline from the early 1980s.  
Here are some of the options their creative teams developed, and why company elders rejected each.

1. Have a Coke and a cock! -- The two words were just too similar, leading people to two-fisting carbonated beverages or penises, but never in the strict one-to-one ratio the slogan clearly advocated.

2. Have a Coke and a stroke! -- It rhymes, but they couldn't guarantee you'd have a stroke, and advertising was then, is now, and forever shall be about telling the verifiable truth.

3. Have a Coke and a Pepsi! -- It was a nice gesture, but they soon realized that they were being too fair.

4. Have a Coke and an abortion! -- Seemed too much like social engineering on their part. Also alienated men, most of whom might never be able to have both.

5. Have a Coke and a sensible breakfast! -- Redundant.  Coke is a sensible breakfast.

6. Have a Coke and a something else! -- Yes, but what? Nicely vague, but left too much choice to the consumer.

7. Have a Coke and a virgin! -- Very popular with male executives, until they remembered they were selling to Americans.

8. Have a Coke and a non-negative anterior expressive phenomenon! -- This would have been chosen, but the jingle was a bit too supercalifragilisticexpialidociousish.

9. Have a Coke and a whiskey! -- This fell through when they failed to get a whiskey manufacturer that felt comfortable telling people to drink something that was clearly bad for them.

10. Have a Coke or a smile!
11. Have a Coke, but smile!
12. Have a Coke, and smile damnit! -- So close, but they felt these slogans made Coke, somehow, anti-smile.  It took four years after these candidates to come up with phrasing that included both Coke and smiles in a non-mutually-exclusive or peaceful context.

Epilogue:  The eventual tagline resulted in a huge increase in sales for Coke, but nothing could have prepared them for the success of its spin-off slogan: 1985's "Have a Diet, Caffeine-Free Coke and a diet, caffeine-free smile!!"  Industry analysts theorize that it was Coke's innovative, now legendary, double-exclamation point strategy that put this one over the top.

1 comment:

Jim H. said...

Little-known sidelight: In an early version of niche marketing, Coke tried some ads aimed at inmates with the slogan "Have a Coke and a File!"