Coca-Cola’s advertisements

How we ‘consume signs’, compare the Coca-Cola’s advertisements and graphic design of two countries; one is UK, the other is Taiwan.

How we ‘consume signs’, compare the Coca-Cola’s advertisements and graphic design of two countries; one is UK, the other is Taiwan.

In this essay I will compare how the Coca-Cola Company produces the same goods using different graphic design in two separate countries. These two countries “UK” and “Taiwan” have companies that make the same popular beverages. The reason I choose these two countries is that Taiwan is where I grew up, and the UK is where I currently study. I found their graphic design styles have wealth variety.

In the book “Media Semiotics an Introduction” Jonathan Bignell said:

“The signs in ads very rarely just denote something. The signs in ads also have connotations, meanings which come from our culture, some if which we can easily recognise consciously, and others which are unconsciously recognised and only become clear once we look for them.”1

Bignell points out an important idea in that strongly attractive advertisements or signs may make customers interested in looking at products even if they are from a different culture. This idea makes me feel interested about the beverage company like “Coca-Cola” could make their products so popular in the different countries.

Firstly, “Dr John S Pemberton in Atlanta, Georgia invented ‘Coca-Cola’ on 8th May 1886. The name ‘Coca-Cola’ was suggested by Dr Pemberton’s bookkeeper, Frank Robinson.”2 This was the beginning of this popular soft drink. After Mr. Earnest Woodruff’s company bought this soft drink, it was consumed at the rate of more than one billion drinks per day in around 200 countries until today.

The design method of the unique bottle was inspired by the image of a cocoa bean while poring through the pages of the Encyclopaedia Britannica.” 3 This is the contour bottle came from. This is the beginning of this big company’s start.

The first Coca-Cola impression in China was in 1957. There were already many soft drink factories in China which producing soft drinks for the US force in China. When the US military left China in 1964, the industrial and commercial circle had together invested to build a soda factory in Taiwan it was not until 1986 that the Coca-cola officially landed in Taiwan. It was the first time that people could buy Coca-Cola there.

The beverage product market in Taiwan has always been highly competitive, but the Coca-Cola Company has managed to become the leading brand and has over 50 per cent share in the soft drinks market. In 1991, it launched a fruit juice call “Qoo” which has a cute cartoon on the bottle. The advertisement made children and women become most popular with. After fruit juice, they also produced tea, ion supply drink and water, making the Coca-Cola Company become a multiple soft drink factory in Taiwan (see figure 1).

The Coca-Cola Company made their product similar around the world but there were still variations between countries. For instants, in Taiwan the packaging of bottle uses red and yellow as main colours. This is because Taiwan people believe that red is a very happy colour that could bring bliss, while yellow was the only colour to be used by the king in ancient periods, and also is similar the colour of gold (see figure 2). The bottle is slightly bit plump, the reason being people live in Taiwan think chubbiness is good fortune (see figure 3).

‘Coca-Cola’ first arrived in Great Britain in 1900 when Charles Candler, son of Asa Candler, then owner of The Coca-Cola Company brought a jug of syrup with him on a visit to London, England. It was first sold in Great Britain on 31st August 1900 and went on regular sales through soda fountain outlets, which included Selfridges and The London Coliseum.

In the last few years the number of brands within their product range has increased. In 1999 The Coca-Cola Company purchased the soft drinks brands of Cadbury Schweppes Plc. This resulted in the extension of Coca-Cola’s existing product range that includes Coca-Col, diet Coke, Cherry Coke, Fanta, Sprite, Lilt and Five Alive, the Schweppes range, Dr Pepper, Oasis, Kia-Ora and Malvern water. In October 2001 the isotonic sports drink ‘PowerAde’ was launched.4

Silver and red are the general colours used in graphics in the UK. During the Christmas festival people use silver and red colour to make people feel warm in the deep cold winter month. That is the main reason the beverage company choose these two main colours. The bottle shape in the UK is thinner and taller in height compared with those in Taiwan maybe the British do not like ‘podgy’ products (see figure 4).

There are different graphic designs between these two countries for “the cherry cola”. In Taiwan there is a very cute doll who plays with a skateboard while drinking the cherry cola, and surrounded by many cherries (see figure 5). In the UK the packaging is about a lot of bubbles turning into cherries. It makes people feel interested in it (see figure 6).

Jonathan states: “Semiotics or semiology is a way of analysing meanings by looking at the signs (like words, for instance, but also pictures, symbols etc.) Which communicate meanings.”5 The Coca-Cola Company uses this idea in each country but in the different ways, such as the big signboard in Leicester Square (see figure 7). The large signboard belongs to the Coca-Cola Company and is designed to change to a different picture every 5 minutes with soundtrack. It makes people want to stop to watch those advertisements because they are colourful, cute, and curious and with sound.

In ‘Media Semiotics An introduction’ it show a theory of Ferdinand de Saussure. “Saussure believed that language is made up of signs (like words) which communicate meanings, and that all kinds of other things which communicate meanings could potentially be studied in the same way as linguistic signs.”6 In Taipei there was a big Coke advertisement on the street few years ago. The advertisement was the same height as a building, with a man using a straw drinking the new vanilla Coke. The man is very happy, and there were many spotlights around him (see figure 8 and 9). In that advertisement there was no used word but it took people’s vision.

In conclusion, “Gestures, dress codes, traffic signs, advertising images, newspaper, television programmes and so on are all kinds of media which use visual signs” as stated in Media Semiotics.7 From the cases study of both the UK and Taiwan, even insight the drinks settle are the same, the Coca-Cola company can make different advertisements, signs, slogans for each country sassed on their different social custom, religion and living habits. Following those rules all companies can create interesting signs to attract consumer’s eyes and make their goods become well-liked.