82 Selling The World A Coke 1886 TWO THIRDS of the earth is covered by water; the rest is covered by Coke. If the French are known for wine and the Germans for beer, America achieved Global Beverage Dominance with fizzy water and caramel color. But Coca-Cola's success has less to do with ingredients than promotion. The coca leaf and kola nut blend cooked up by Atlanta druggist John Pemberton in 1886 was released into a market saturated with self-medications. He positioned his nonalcoholic tonic as the Great National Temperance Drink, and soon folks were buying Coke just for the taste of it.
Asa Candler bought the company for $2,300 and retooled the drink's secret formula. He spent lavishly on advertising--as much as a quarter of the company's revenue. When Robert Woodruff took the helm, he vowed to put a Coke "within an arm's reach of desire." Feeling that he'd like to buy the world a Coke, he established a foreign department in 1926. After Pearl Harbor, the U.S. military footed much of the bill for Coke's bottling plants at the front lines. (At home, Pepsi was subject to sugar rationing.) Not coincidentally, millions of people in nearly 200 countries have been introduced to the pause that refreshes.
Today, 606 million Cokes (including diet, caffeine-free and other versions) are consumed daily. A rich man can buy a better wine or beer than a peasant, but not a better Coke. The fact that they both want to is a testament to the power of advertising, and perhaps that secret formula.