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Anyone Buying The Guilt-Free Coke?

The invention of Coca Cola.

When Atlanta pharmacist John Pemberton invented Coca Cola in 1886, chances are he couldn’t have imagined that one day in the distant future:

–       A major news organization, CNN, would report that obesity had become a bigger problem than hunger*

–       That the mayor of New York, distraught about the ever-expanding waist size of his constituents, would declare war on jumbo soft drinks*

–       And that the giant company that grew from his own concoction – whipped up, by the way, in a brass kettle in Pemberton’s backyard – would be forced to launch a revolutionary marketing strategy to retain its popularity and bolster its brand.

Yet that’s exactly where things stand today. In fact, if the trend continues, 13 states could have adult obesity rates above 60 percent by 2030, according to the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Coke gets it, plain and simple.

The company has unveiled a proactive ad that says you can have your drink and swallow it without feeling guilty. The key message Coke’s two minute “Coming Together” video is that the company that’s been “bringing people together for 125 years” has now stepped up to unite us to attack obesity. “As the nation’s leading beverage company, we can play an important role,” the ad says.

Coke offers 650 different soft drinks; 180 have low or no calories. There are smaller sizes, and the calorie count is now front and center. The soft drink industry’s “voluntarily” adjustment of drinks provided for sale in elementary, middle and high schools has resulted in a 90 percent reduction in calories from beverages since 2004, Coke says.

As might be expected, the campaign has not exactly been embraced in all quarters. “An exercise in damage control,” says the Center for Science in the Public Interest. In cyberspace, Danielle Nirenberg tweeted, “Oh, the irony. Coke ad calls on everyone to fight fat.”

On the other hand, the company has wisely recognized it could not simply be part of the problem.

While profits are certainly a key part of the equation, Coke has come up with healthier choices and supported health-minded endeavors like the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.

Now – despite the schmaltzy music and melodic narrator – the company has also taken a masterful step toward enhancing its image, while gently reminding everyone that it’s a little heavy-handed to blame all those pounds on Coke.

Hidden within the ad is a key point: “All calories count, no matter where they come from, including Coca Cola and everything else with calories. And if you eat and drink more calories than you burn off, you’ll gain weight.”

Translation: Don’t blame us; exercise more and have a Dasani once in a while.

Of course the water fountain is another option.

* CNN Report

* Soft Drink Info

Steve Piacente is a contributing blogger for JenningsWire, a blogging community created by Annie Jennings.