Coca Cola remixes its historical marketing collateral

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In 2008, Coca-Cola celebrates 125 years of Coke. In the same year, Rex, a small Joburg-based company of designers, turns four. Despite the marked age gap, however, the world’s largest and most valuable brand has invited Rex to participate in its global birthday celebrations.

The project, dubbed Coca-Cola Remix, sees 125 artists from around the world taking 125 years of Coca-Cola marketing material and re-inventing it to create a series of fresh visuals inspired by the brand’s new global positioning statement – the Coke side of life. Each ‘artist’ – which includes icons such as Sir Peter Blake, who designed the cover of the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album, as well as creative collaboratives such as Rex – was given unlimited access to Coca-Cola’s archived marketing material, and invited to re-interpret these visuals in their unique style to bring the Coke mantra of “happiness in a bottle” to life.

The result is a gallery of imagery that pays homage to the brand’s heritage and the prominent role that it has played in popular global culture over the years, while simultaneously building its present branding platform.

The work exists in a variety of media formats, both static and animated, and has been brought to life via traditional print and outdoor executions across the world, as well as a series of outdoor art galleries (such as on London’s South Bank) and via an online ‘vault’, which allows the work to live globally. The work will also be displayed in the Coca-Cola Museum in Atlanta, and an initiative to invite consumers to render their own Coca-Cola Remix visions has begun.

Rex was the only creative collaborative from South Africa invited to participate in the project, placing the company’s work alongside artists stretching from the United States to Brazil, Indonesia to Japan, and Spain and Switzerland to Senegal. On a broader scale, it places Rex alongside cultural art icons such as Sir Peter Blake, Keith Haring and Andy Warhol.

“It is a great honour to be involved in a project of this nature, not only because of the stature of the brand but also because of the enormous strides that it represents for marketing as a discipline,” comments Rex co-founder Rudo Botha.

Both Botha and his partner Olivier Schildt believe that branding – if it is to be really successful – needs to exist as more than a commercial message. It must stand for something, and that something must be meaningful to its target audience if the brand is to be integrated into daily life.

In addition, they also believe that consumers must be allowed to participate in the creation of this meaning, and thus in the branding process.

“The days of linear branding tightly controlled by the marketing director are over,” says Botha. “Today’s consumers understand that they can – and do – define brands. Whether marketers like it or not, they need to relinquish some control to the consumer and embrace the process of co-authoring.”

Says Schildt: “As a brand, Coca-Cola ‘gets’ this. The marketing team understands the need to engage with its consumers, to allow them to not only choose from a variety of artistic interpretations of the brand, but also allow them to create their own relationship with the brand.”

Rex’s Remix of the Coca-Cola brand, which the creators have dubbed ‘Cola-Cola Origami’ tells an African story using the universal language created by Coke over the years. Each piece of the design folds in on itself to reveal a new image, a bird that’s swallowed by a crocodile which transforms into a herd of migrating buffalo.

“It’s a completely new story made out of old stories. It’s a piece of Africa, made out of pieces of the global Coke world,” says Botha.

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