How Coca-Cola is Marketed in Myanmar

Until last year, Myanmar was one of the three countries in which the sale of Coca-Cola was banned (sanctioned). This NPR article discusses how the company marketed the soda to people who’ve never tasted Coca-Cola before (or have forgotten the taste). The key: billboards, fliers, and free samples:

Myanmar has spotty electricity and bad refrigerators. Coca-Cola was worried that people were trying Coke at room temperature. At the tastings, everyone gets an ice-cold bottle of Coke, and instructions on the proper way to drink Coke — a five point plan for deliciousness:

1) Get a glass.

2) Chill the bottle.

3) Put three cubes of ice in the glass.

4) Pour at a 45 degree angle.

5) Add a dash of lime.

A shorter version of the advice is on the back of the bottle. In fact, all the marketing messages, the slogans, the history of Coke, and the ice-cold mandate are all squeezed onto the bottle. Moin says its the one place where they know they can catch the consumer’s eye.

This was an interesting pricing strategy:

In the center of every label is the price of the product, 300 Kyat, about 32 cents. Coke almost never does this. It lets the retailer set the price, but this time, they were convinced that stores would just continue to sell Coke at a huge mark-up unless they put the price on the bottle.


The Evolution of the Soda Can Tab

Tom Vanderbilt, writing for Slate, traces the very interesting history of soda tab design. The modern incarnation of the ubiquitous feature has only been in existence for less than 40 years:

The solution came from Daniel F. Cudzik, an engineer with Reynolds Metals, who for years had been toiling away on what would what become known as the “Sta-Tab.” As Cudzik told Studio 360, his search for a “convenience top” that was “more practical and less prone to litter” came to fruition one night when he was in living room, “half watching a movie.” While the idea might seem simple to a consumer raised on nothing but stay-on tabs, the design required some elegant engineering (and some subsequent legal battles over alleged patent infringements).

As Cudzik described the problem in his 1975 patent application: “The opening construction of the invention requires a tab which must be stiff against transverse bending and yet flexible enough and tough enough at the connection between the tab end wall to permit lifting and retracting the tab without causing a fatigue crack at the connection.” As elegantly explained in this video, the design operates both as a “second class” and as a “first class lever” at different points in the can-opening process—redirecting loads and shifting the fulcrum—using the inherent pressure from the carbonated beverage in its favor.

Apparently the new invention caused some concern, as people were used to opening cans with this device.

An Interview with Designer Jonathan Mak

You’re probably familiar with the student artist from Hong Kong named Jonathan Mak Long. Last October, shortly after the death of Steve Jobs, Mak dreamed up a little tribute—an Apple symbol subtly embedded with Jobs’s silhouette, seen below:

Jonathan Mak with the now iconic Steve Jobs tribute logo.

Recently, Mak interviewed with Evan Osnos at The New Yorker. It’s a great interview:

I am twenty years old, was born and raised in Hong Kong, and seldom travelled. (My current student-exchange program in Germany marks my second trip beyond Asia.) My mother is a teacher, and my father works as a translator. They do not have a background in visual creativity, but they are the main reason for my interest in language, which has been tremendously helpful to my growth as a designer.

Like almost everybody else, I loved doodling and making things when I was young, but I never quite left that phase. I continued to create, such as writing a class newspaper, trying my hand at songwriting, and even recording my own podcast. Graphic design began as simply part of my compulsion to create, but, as I got increasingly comfortable with the medium, my love for it grew, and it has not stopped since.

The bulk of the interview is focused on design in China:

Discussing Chinese design is tricky. On one hand, you have the cream of the crop—contemporary graphics effortlessly combined with just enough Chinese motifs to differentiate them from the West. But at the same time, we have countless adverts that are flamboyant, sickly sweet, and just hyperbolic all around, often with jarring color combinations and tragic abuse of effect filters. “That is so ‘mainland,’ ” a Hong Konger might snort in derision. I am sometimes guilty of this reaction, but I am trying to see the other side of this issue.

Click through the interview to see the design he made for Coca-Cola, China.


Where Coca-Cola Doesn’t Sell

I knew Coca-Cola had a worldwide presence, but I didn’t know that it was so widespread. Bloomberg reports that after getting into the Myanmar market (after a sixty year absence), only two countries will not have access to the world’s most popular soft drink: Cuba and North Korea:

Coca-Cola has grown from selling nine drinks a day in a single country in 1886 to distributing 1.8 billion beverages in more than 200 nations, according to data posted on its website. Myanmar, Cuba and North Korea are the only countries where Coca- Cola doesn’t operate, the company said yesterday. Coca-Cola says the 1971-vintage advertisement entitled “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke” remains one of its most popular.

There’s also this:

PepsiCo Inc. (PEP), the world’s second-largest soft-drink maker, pulled out of Myanmar in 1997 after shareholder groups and activists urged the company to sever ties with the military dictatorship because of human-rights violations. Heineken NV, the world’s third-biggest brewer, withdrew in 1996.

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi earlier this month warned investors against “reckless optimism” in the country’s move toward democracy. In a speech in Bangkok, her first outside Myanmar in 24 years, Suu Kyi called job creation her top priority and called for “healthy skepticism” of Myanmar’s reform process.

Also of interest: a Coke executive, Todd Putnam, who claimed the “share of stomach” paradigm at the company:

We weren’t trying to get share of market. We weren’t about trying to beat Pepsi or Mountain Dew. We were about trying to beat everything.

Mountain Dew’s New Marketing Campaign

Mountain Dew is about to roll out a new marketing campaign, focusing on the younger individuals:

The new campaign — targeted at consumers in their teens to 20s — brings together a diverse lineup of seven celebrities, O’Brien said. Individual TV and radio ads by each superstar will be tailored to regional markets. The point: Link Dew to stuff young people find cool.

Country singer Jason Aldean’s spot might be in heavy rotation in Nashville, for example, while Lil Wayne flashes on screens in Los Angeles and rapper Mac Miller dominates airwaves in his home state of Pennsylvania. Mexican-American pro skateboarder Paul Rodriguez — a.k.a. P-Rod — appeals to a street-skate set that is racially diverse, O’Brien said.

I had no idea of Mountain Dew’s storied history:

Mountain Dew was named for the moonshine liquor produced in the Appalachian stills of Tennessee. In the 1940s, brothers Ally and Barney Hartman concocted a lemony soda as a spirits mixer, trademarking the name in 1948. Early bottles featured a gun- toting hillbilly chasing a federal agent from an outhouse.

PepsiCo bought the brand in 1964. Its first TV ad used the slogan, “Ya-Hoo Mountain Dew. It’ll tickle your innards.” A barefoot, one-toothed mountain man raved, “Shore as shootin’, there’s a bang in every bottle,” as a curvy woman wearing a hair bow and Wilma Flintstone-looking dress took a sip.

Another bit that caught my attention: Mountain Dew outsells Coca-Cola in convenience stores in Georgia, the home of Coca-Cola. I’d like to see hard numbers justifying this claim.