The first Coca-Cola ad in the Post appeared in 1922, 36 years after it was introduced as a patent medicine of coca leaves and kola nuts. The original formula was developed by a wounded Civil War veteran to help him reduce his dependency on morphine. He and, later, his son who took over the business eventually realized there was a bigger market for this first cola drink if it was served at soda fountains as a nonmedicinal, carbonated beverage.
In response to imitators, Coke began distinguishing its product by consistently using deep red in its ads and packaging and by always printing its brand name in Spencerian script (the same typeface used by Ford and Budweiser). It also began bottling its product in the familiar contour bottle still seen today, launched a national billboard advertising campaign, and introduced free-sample coupons as well as the six-pack. To keep its customers happy, it sold Coke by the glass or bottle for 5 cents from 1886 until 1959.
Coke expanded into the global market by sponsoring the 1926 Olympics and, in 1928, sending the U.S. team to Amsterdam with 40,000 bottles. It became even more visible in World War II when it appeared wherever GIs were stationed around the world. Today, Coke is marketed in every country in the world — except North Korea and Cuba.
This article is featured in the January/February 2021 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.
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