Last week I had the pleasure to attend a symposium held by Coca-cola; it was an ungodly early hour, but there was endless coffee, there were muffins, and despite my fears there was no coke in the room at 7.30a.m.. So it was all good.
But frankly, I did not expect to hear things I did not know about Coca-Cola. I’ll be honest – I presumed I was there to hear some ‘look-how-fab-our-products-actually-are’ PR spiel.
I mean, come on.
This was Coca-Cola, the corporate giant.
We all know everything we need to about them, right?
(sorry, I just had to. It’s only 30 seconds…) First we began with the #HolidaysAreComing Coke advert. Of course.
But that was fine by me – it’s one part of Christmas commercialism I genuinely love. Looking up from the end of the advert, out the window at the grey London November morning I realised it had actually begun to snow.
Seriously Coke, that was pretty impressive.
But then they started chatting to us; firstly, I finally solved the mystery of the Difference Between Diet Coke & Coke Zero. At last!
But once we moved off the pressing matter of Coke Zero, all manner of interesting things were discussed. Here’s my pick of the highlights for you;
1. There’s Less Sugar.
No, really. And it’s not just the 5% the government demanded. Drinks like Fanta, Sprite, Dr Pepper, Oasis, Lilt – they’ve all undergone a slight recipe change, mixing sugar up with Stevia to reduce the sugars by 30%.
Now in all honesty – the fuss about sugar has passed me by. I think we all know that too much sugar equals a bad thing. Drink a LOT of it, and you’ll get a lot bigger on the hips. It’s not a tricky equation.
I’m not overly keen on the governments drive to stop big brands using their recipes, and declaring what’s inside on the packaging.
Coke’s never exactly hidden what was in it, have they? And they offer a perfectly marvellous calorie-free alternative to those who don’t want the sugar.
So hush governments. Because too much government interference is a bad thing too.
But hey – Coke are listening, and doing more than has been asked, so all to the good I guess.
But enough of the whole sugar thing. There’s four different Cokes to choose from – there’s bound to be one for you, so make your choice and drink up. there’s more important things that were far more interesting.
2. Coca-Cola are empowering 5 million women entrepreneurs
Coca-Cola have launched a new initiative #5by20 which I love love LOVE. It’s a global project, enabling the economic empowerment of 5 million women entrepreneurs by 2020. You can see the stories of lots of the Artisans that Coca- Cola have already worked with – careful, it’s addictive once you start! I love Marlene’s story in the clip below – and I *need* one of those pretty white disc bags. Having looked at the bag in the Artisans shop, I can now see it’s made of hand sewn recycled PET scales. It’s basically an old coke bottle. but it’s SO pretty!
It’s just a wonderful, wonderful project – helping women at the very heart of communities in very practical, real ways to build a future for themselves; whether it’s a solar-powered cooler or some mentoring with a designer, they are literally tossing the pebble that creates the powerful ripples through the whole community as these fabulous women and their businesses learn to thrive.
3. Park Lives
Next up we discovered the ParkLives project that Coca-Cola GB launched last year in partnership with 3 local authorities in the UK (and which has now expanded to six). This was a fabulously invisible project to me – I sort of expected Coke to be investing in under-developed countries across the world. But unless you happen to live inside one of the included councils I’m willing to bet you’ve never even heard of the awesomeness that is Park Lives.
Coca-Cola understood after the Olympics that the enthusiasm and community that had been created should be continued – but it needed action at grass roots level in deprived areas where there was simply no funding for such unglamorous projects.
They came to understand that far better than concentrating on supporting a particular sport and simply adding their logo to ongoing activity, they should be supporting the very heart of a community, and trying to make the same differences that they can in Patagonia or India. Parks are so often the soul of a community – everyone at different stages of their lives makes use of our local parks – where better than to build some real community activities?
The project offers free activities for all of the family to take part in in local parks across the country – for many families getting everyone signed up to exercise classes is pretty costly, and is often something that cannot all do together with their friends and neighbours. But heading to the local park is easy – and it’s not really about serious sports. It’s about having fun, being sociable, just getting out; it might be rounders, a Tai Chi class, frisbee, yoga, hula-hooping, sociable dog-walking…
Currently it’s just in those six cities, but there are major plans afoot to spread it nationwide, bring park Lives to anyone community that has a park and a need of a bit of sociable, healthy fun.
4. Disaster Relief
This wasn’t part of the planned discussion, the question was raised by one of my fellow bloggers. Whenever there is a natural disaster, Coke gets on the scene as soon as possible with supplies of fresh water.
What impressed me about this, though, was the way in which it is done. The Coca-Cola system’s response to the January 12, 2010 earthquake in Haiti was immediate – the Company donated $2 million to the Red Cross, and more than 1 million litres of water traveled by land, air and sea to reach those in urgent need.
But that’s unbranded bottles, in unbranded transport. It’s not a lovely marketing ploy – it’s just about getting help to where it’s needed, as fast as possible.
No PR shoutiness, it’s not really talked about. It’s just done.
So – clearly I didn’t know as much about Coke as I thought. I entered the room with an open mind, but a mildly cynical view of this giant corporation – and came out feeling incredibly positive that so much good was happening a long way away from any of the marketing promotions and the TV cameras. It’s just being done because it makes sense.
Also, after the blind taste test, I am now a bit of a Coke Zero evangelist.
Have you tried it yet? You must. It’s good.
But if you really want the good stuff, you’ll have to find yourself a can of Coke Zero Cherry. NOW you’re talking (yes, I’m still 14 really…).