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For God Country and Coca-Cola

We read this book to get an understanding of what makes the Coca-Cola brand so special, given its one of Berkshire Hathaways oldest investment we thought it worthy of a read. This is extremely insightful and a must read for brand perspective, its hard to compare many of todays 'brands' with this history in perspective. And yes there was cocaine in Coca-Cola!

Here are the Time Tested management lessons from Coca-Cola Leaders:

  1. Sell a good product: The product has to perform some useful, universally appreciated function

  2. Believe in your product: Make you employees jobs their religious vocation and believe its the best product in the world

  3. Develop a mystique: An air of mystery and touch of sin, sells. "who really knows whats in that secret darky fizzy?"

  4. Sell a cheaply produced item: Coca-Cola has always cost only a fraction of a cent per drink to produce, it was never capital intensive to make but highly secretive.

  5. Ensure everyone who touches your product before it reaches your consumer makes money

  6. Make your product affordable to everyone: an affordable luxury

  7. Market your product wisely: How, When and Where you market is vital. in 1911 Coca-Cola was the best advertised single product in the world

  8. Advertise an image not a product: "it isnt what a product is but what it does".."That pause that refreshes"

  9. Welcome an Arch Rival: Pepsi has been good for Coca-Cola

  10. Use Celebrity endorsements wisely - but sparingly: Sometimes viewers remember more about the celebrity than the product

  11. When you use celebrities use some local ones

  12. Appeal to universal human desires: the coke message has universally been - by drinking this product you will be self assured, happy, popular, sexy, youthful and well coordinated.

  13. Get 'em young

  14. Develop cultural sensitivity: Dont trap yourself as an ugly american image if selling around the world.

  15. Hire Aggressive lawyers: Defend your brand by stifling imitators and misinformation

  16. Dont break the law:

  17. Dont use defensive or negative advertising

  18. Promote from within

  19. All publicity is good publicity

  20. There is no saturation point: set ambitious goals for consumption


  • Coke is the worlds most widely distributed product in the world and is available in over 200 countries. 

Besides the word okay Coca Cola is the worlds most recognised word!
Now that is a brand! 
  • Coca-Cola’s success stemmed directly from advertising which made it an emblem of the good things in America

  • Coca-cola was initially sold through Soda fountains in pharmacies which became a social centre. 

  • Soda fountains were very competitive and initially it was the ease of preparation that got traction with Coca Cola

  • The syrup was invented by John Pemberton in 1886 who was a morphine Addict and sold the secret syrup recipe to Asa Candler for $500 in 1890

  • Frank Robinson designed the handwritten brand 

  • Coca Cola contained cocaine and was highly addictive to lower sociodemographics

  • In 1895 company finances reveal how money was spent and made. Candler was making $5.40 profit out of $6.40 per gallon of syrup sold! After disbursements and advertising etc. By the beginning of 1896 the business had surplus assets of $50,000

A sign of the companies coming of age was combating counterfeit. The effort of controlling counterfeit and the existence of it indicates a brands true power.
  • In 1899 36M drinks were sold for the year!!!!

  • When two savvy young entrepreneurs (Thomas and Whitehead) approached Candler to bottle Coca Cola Candler thought they were crazy and agreed to sell them syrup and signed a contract with no expiration date and also no provision to modify the price of the syrup! This haunted Coca Cola for the next century! Candler literally gave away this right for zero consideration

  • Thomas and whitehead got lucky in that the in 1900 when they struck the deal other innovations came to be that enabled Soda to be bottled  and made mass produced bottled beverages increasingly attractive. 

  • The Pure Food Law - was passed to enforce the labelling of key ingredients like caffeine. 

    • Coca Cola Co. Nearly went bankrupt in the defence against Dr Wiley’s pure food push and campaign having spent over $250k on legal fees for the trial. 

  • Robert Woodruff took over as president a while after Coca Cola listed Coca Cola Co completed a stock split in 1927, it was worth $96 a share. The day of the crash it stood at $137, during the day it slipped to just above $128 and by the end of the year had recovered to $134 continuing to rise steadily in the following years. 

  • in 1950 coca-cola accounted for 50% of all USA soft drink sales and was the subject of senate enquiry sparked by Dr Pepper who complained of Coca-Colas low prices!

The Pepsi challenge started in 1975 and even coca-cola drinkers were amazed to find in blindfolded tests they preferred pepsi. Pepsi jumped to 17% market share. during these advertising campaigns about the "pepsi challenge" Coca-Cola market share declined to 26%
  • by 1986 every man, woman and child in the USA drank 660 eight ounce soft drinks every year. Internationally Coca-cola led pepsi 3-1

  • in 1989 the company sold over 45% of the all the worlds carbonated soft drinks

  • Coca-Cola became an icon of american freedom with soldiers in the war being sent and requesting the beverage for memory of home.

  • It took the company 100years to generate $1B in net profits in 1988 and then only a further 5 years to reach $2B in 1993

Protecting the Trademark

  • Never split the name coca or cola on two lines

  • The phrase Trademark registered must always be in the tail of first C

  • Never refer to Coca Cola as “it” 

  • Never use Coca Cola in the first person

  • Never market Coca Cola to be drunk by children. 

The Secret Coca-Cola Formula:

1 1/2 Qut (Quart) Alcohol

12oz f.e (fluid extract) nutmegs

19 " ext Vanilla

13d Oil Lemon

10d Oil Cinnamon

12d Nutmeg

15d Coriander

12d neroli


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