Champagne may be the king of branding in the wine world but in America soda brands rule, and sitting at the pinnacle of soda branding, still, is Coca-Cola. In just 100 years Coke has become one of the world’s most recognized brands and the world’s largest beverage company with products sold in more than 200 countries.
The Coca-Cola brand name, logo, jingles, commercials, and slogans have become synonymous with America and have reflected our changing times from one decade to the next. Some ad campaigns have been so successful they are embedded in our national psyche from one generation to the next. Like the famous 1971 TV commercial and jingle “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke.” This ad was part of the famous national campaign “It’s the Real Thing” and it’s one of the most well known commercials ever made.
Associated with youth, good health, happiness, and American values, Coke has been hugely successful at reflecting American pop culture and exporting it to every continent. This commercialism, and Coke’s mythic portrayal of American life, has had a significant global impact on local economies, cultures, and governments around the world. In fact, Coke’s influence was so widespread political scientists and anthropologists even have a term for this phenomenon: Cocalization. And their globalization helped create the same opportunities for other American sodas.
So how did we get from a simple soft drink to world domination? It all started with carbonated water, which was invented by the chemist and teacher Joseph Priestly (who more importantly discovered oxygen) when he added carbon dioxide gas to water and it immediately created a brisk effervescence. Until then, the only source for carbonated mineral water was from natural springs, and this drink was made popular because doctors and scientists believed it had healthy properties that could cure a wealth of ailments. With the invention of man-made carbonated water, pharmacists were able to commercialize their made-to-order prescriptions and a new industry was spawned.
Unlike the sweet bubbly sodas we know today, these carbonated drinks were barely palatable and were essentially mineral sodas prepared as medicinal drinks that included herbs and extracts like birch bark, sarsaparilla, and dandelion. Touted as cures, the first sodas were prepared and served at
counters in the drug store, and many historians believe it was Doctor Philip Syng Physick, a pharmacist from Philadelphia, who in 1807 got the idea to create the first flavored carbonated soda. He and other pharmacists quickly realized they could sell even more soda if the drinks tasted good and soon sodas were being improved with the addition of fruit extracts. Once people tasted these fun drinks, the race was on to find an easy way to cheaply and more easily mass produce carbonated drinks for a profit.
Fast forward to 1832 when Doctor John Mathews invented the first man-made, mass produced carbonated water fountain and revolutionized the beverage trade in America. With his new invention, pharmacists could easily create dozens of different flavored carbonated soda drinks right at the counter or send them for delivery. Once consumers tried the new better tasting drinks it didn’t take long for soda fountain counters to spring up in drug stores, train stations, dime stores, department stores, and all sorts of places across America. Until the arrival of fast-food franchises in the 1960s, which played a part in their demise, these soda fountains were a beloved part of Americana.