Coca-Cola was invented by John Pemberton, a pharmacist. His mission? To devise a drink so deliciously addictive, that it would be a replacement for his morphine dependency.
With its scientific origins and unfathomable brown hue, Coca-Cola is a victory for man over nature.
“Always the real thing”
In the world of Coke, real doesn’t mean natural. Rather it speaks to Coca-Cola’s unique, otherworldly recipe. The holy grail. A recipe so arrestingly delicious that it feels thrillingly illicit to partake.
The sugar, the e numbers, and the additives all play an important role. They are the ruinous, improper ingredients that justify this improbable taste.
Base ingredients is what gives Coca-Cola its realness. They are the natural price you pay for indulgence.
Carcinogenic associations do not limit Diet Coke. They restore the natural order of things. They prove that it does taste too good to be true.
Which is why Coca-Cola Life is such a misstep. You can imagine the meeting. “Consumers are drinking more natural ingredients. So let’s try and make Coke without the bad stuff”.
Coca-Cola is meant to be bad for you. It’s why it’s so enjoyable.
But Coke Life not only misunderstands why people drink Coke. It misunderstands why people are drinking more natural ingredients.
Of course, part of it is a rational health-driven thing. But the real reasons are deeper. There is a growing antipathy with faceless brands.
‘Drinking natural’ is part of the more general need for ‘organic’, ‘rooted’ and ‘authentic’ production.
Consumers in developed countries increasingly aspire towards a DIY capitalism. Products curated by ethical, small time players who trade off an intimate supply chain.
These players can authentically make claims about natural ingredients. They are closer to the real world. And they define themselves against giant, global companies like Coca-Cola.
Which is why Life is so jarring. It is the worst of both worlds. Coke without the indulgence. Nature without a credible story.
Coca-Cola should remain in its natural habitat. A euphoric, hedonistic idyll which exists somewhere in the sky. A cult of happiness.
It will remain a place people visit. When they want to get high.