Coca-Cola is one of the most famous brands in the world and the most famous soda. The company was founded in 1892 and went through many changes. It went through new coke and old coke, through different owners, through hundreds of varieties and hundreds of countries. In all this time and through all these changes Coca-Cola has not only survived but gone from strength to strength. Two factors have been key to its success. Incredible taste and incredible marketing.
One of the most famous theories about Coca-Cola that is often heard is that only two people in the whole world know the recipe for the drink. More than that they say that each person only knows one half of the formula and only together can they make the incredible drink. This legend was added to when Coca-Cola started to talk about directly in its ad campaigns.
The idea that a formula is only known by one person, or known by two people with a half each is nothing new. There are many unique products all over the world that make this claim. It adds a sense of mystery, it adds to the idea of a truly unique taste and it adds something special to the product that is difficult to do in competitive markets. In Portugal for example there is a famous tart called the Pastel de Belém. Legend says that only six people know the recipe to this delightful treat. It has a long story that links back to the monks creating it in secret in a local monastery. I am sure that even in your own family there is a grandmother somewhere who had a recipe for cookies or scones that she would share with no one. Basically secret recipes sound pretty cool and get people excited.
The only issue is that secret recipes are not easy to scale. As Coca-Cola is one of the largest companies in the world, to have it all relying on a recipe that only two people half know, would be both a huge risk and a huge issue in trying to create the drink in factories all over the world.
This leads us to believe that in the case of Coca-Cola it is just not true. The evidence does support this as well. The story doesn’t really stack up. When the original creator invented Coca-Cola he had two business partners. From the outset it is clear that three people knew the formula. From there some stories say that the two men who know it are not allowed to fly on the same plane, from a fear that if something happens it will be lost forever. If that is the case then if one man dies it would still be lost, don’t they only know half each? If that was the case then why is there a secure handwritten recipe locked away in a private vault since 1925? It is clear that the whole idea is simply a marketing ploy that has been used in different ways since Coca-Cola first introduced it.
In 2011 the recipe was moved from the secure vault to a new facility in Atlanta that is a sort of Coca-Cola museum. Aside from the fact that if you really want to keep something secure the last place you would keep it would be at the center of a tourist attraction, the fact that a handwritten recipe exists for something that only two men are supposed to know in their heads does start to get a little confusing.
Whether it is true or not, it is a fantastic little marketing initiative that has done well for Coca-Cola. While the drink does taste good, the brand is far stronger and ideas like this are what add to its strength. Numerous blind taste tests have proved people are unable to tell the difference between Coca-Cola and its competitors. Other tests have shown that many people actually prefer other drinks. Yet most will continue to buy Coca-Cola. You just can’t beat the power of good marketing, whether it is true or false.