Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Power of a Memorable Shape

Do you recognize this shape? With what do you associate it? A brand of soft drink, maybe?
If you said Coca-Cola®, then the millions of dollars (if not more) that Coke has spent on advertising and creating and copyrighting this shape has worked. And, yes, Coke holds the rights to this bottle shape. When Coke first started out, there were many competitors who attempted to imitate Coke down to the cursive font used in its logo. Anyone hear of Coca-nola? To make it easy for consumers to find the "real thing," the marketing geniuses at Coke worked with bottle manufacturers to develop this unique hobble skirt bottle. Now consumers would have no problem telling the real Coke from the rest—even in the dark.

This hobble skirt bottle was based on the latest women's fashion of the same name seen in this photo from Wikipedia. It doesn't look very comfortable or allow for much mobility, but it certainly exaggerates a woman's curves. Maybe that was why this bottle shape was so appealing and memorable. ;)

Coke is one of the most well-known brands around the world. From stadiums to restaurants to gas stations to movie theaters, Coca-cola products are sold and their signature colors and unique cursive logo are on full display on the soda machines, refrigerated units, menus, and signs hung on walls and doors at thousands of establishments. (Notice how I didn't include Coke's logo in this blog, but I bet you pictured it perfectly.) Recently, I watched CNBC's Coca-Cola: The Real Story Behind the Real Thing and was inspired by their straightforward—and subconscious—marketing and how this brand has pervaded not only the world but our memories.

When you looked at the bottle's silhouette what did you feel? Did you remember the last time you had a Coke? Was it a pleasurable experience? Were you on vacation, taking a lunch break, watching your favorite football team win the Superbowl?

In CNBC's report, they interviewed Coke executives who talked about Coke's "memory bank." How they purposefully placed Coke products and sponsorships where people enjoy themselves like movie theaters, vacation spots, and arenas. Their early advertisements included Santa Claus, who coincidentally wore the same the colors as Coke's logo. Norman Rockwell painted many of their advertisements showing idyllic Americana scenes where the subjects enjoy a nice, refreshing Coke. All these seemingly very different marketing efforts come together to cause the image and taste of Coke to resonate with us and bring back positive memories of when we enjoyed this beverage. If we are having a bad day, just have a Coke and remember the good times and we'll feel better.

At one point, Coke had dropped the hobble skirt shape from their bottles when they went to plastic, especially from their 2-liter bottles. You may have noticed in recent years, they are employing this curvy shape once again. In fact, they found their transactions increased by 1 million a week when they went back to their signature bottle shape. It just proves how strong the image of Coke's bottle is linked to our memories and how we buy.

As you work on marketing and advertising for your product or service, consider how you can make it more memorable by attaching it to a story or a positive feeling or even highlighting a unique image the consumer will remember—especially when they are ready to purchase.

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