Coke Changes Can. World Ends.

We like to keep a stocked fridge here at BKMedia Group. Food, beer, pop. (Yes, I said pop… I’m from Michigan) Two of the staples in our little fridge are Dr. Pepper and Coca-Cola.

As a designer my tastes are constantly changing. I pull inspiration from things that I see on a daily basis, so the way I lay out your piece on Monday might not be the same as it would have been a week ealier. Change is good; it keeps things fresh. Apparently, some of Coca-Cola’s loyal customer base don’t think so.

No, Coca-Cola didn’t change their recipe, (they’ve tried that before… it didn’t go well) all they did was change their can. It wasn’t even a permanent change, just a nice new can for the holiday season. The can featured the red Coca-Cola script on a white background, with three polar bears walking across the bottom in silver. The polar bears have been a staple of Coke’s holiday ad campaigns for years now, but this can was part of a partnership with the WWF (no, not that WWF… the World Wildlife Fund) to bring awareness to the threat global warming poses to polar bears and their Arctic homes. As part of the campaign, Coke is contributing as much as $3 million dollars to conservation causes.

The white can is definitely a departure from the classic red that is so recognizable, but it was a refreshing change. Coke wasn’t trying to reinvent themselves, but simply draw attention to an important cause. Unfortunately, that’s not how some consumers saw it. After a limited run of only a month, Coke has announced that the white cans will be phased out and replaced with red cans, well before the planned end date in February. Coke received numerous complaints about the white cans from people who, I can only assume, are nearly blind, crazy, or when it comes down to it, simply afraid of change.

One of the major complaints was that the cans were too similar to Diet Coke, leading to confusion and unwanted sugar-highs. Apparently I had too much faith in the literacy of our nation, as I assumed that the difference between “Coca-Cola” and “Diet Coke” on the side of a can was rather… I don’t know… obvious? But alas, Coke has to change, in part because people are too lazy to look at what they’re grabbing.

Another complaint has been that the Coca-Cola inside the white can tastes different than normal. As I mentioned before, Coke has done nothing to alter their product. It’s not really clear how many people made this claim, but in my mind they all bear a striking similarity to Mel Gibson in the movie ‘Conspiracy Theory.’ (The white cans were clearly a ploy by the Obama administration to distract from the nation-wide crackdown on the Occupy Wall Street movement. The polar bears represent  the strong authority of the government, and their cold demeanor while unlawfully oppressing their own people… Right?)

Probably the most prevalent complaint was simply that the white cans were, for lack of a better word, wrong. Coke has always been red; how could they possibly change that? IT’S A SIGN OF THE END! 2012 IS NEAR! The classic status of Coke’s red can means, to some, that it has to stay red. No matter that it’s a temporary (let’s even call it ‘limited-edition’) can to support a good cause, Coke MUST be red. It’s a principle that I would, under some circumstances, agree with. Coke has one of the most recognizable brands in the world, and to reinvent themselves could be damaging and leave their consumers feeling alienated and abandoned. It’s happened for brands in the past (see: Gap) but a simple holiday can is a far cry from that.

So Coke is phasing out the white cans in order to calm the masses. The red cans will still feature the polar bears, and in no way will this affect their partnership with the WWF. It’s a move they have to make, but it’s a shame that something so simple and beautiful (and minor)  is disappearing for such silly reasons as “I don’t want to read,” or (say it like a 5 year old) “but I don’t LIKE that color!”

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