Open Happiness


© History Oasis

"Marketing is not just about selling a product; it's about telling a story. With 'Open Happiness', Coca-Cola didn't just offer a beverage, they served a reminder that in the midst of chaos, joy is a choice we can all make. Great campaigns resonate because they touch the human soul."


In 2009, the world was grappling with the aftershocks of the most severe global financial crisis since the Great Depression, leading to widespread economic downturns, job losses, and a pervasive atmosphere of uncertainty.

Many industries, seeking to navigate this challenging landscape, struggled to maintain consumer trust and engagement.

Against this bleak backdrop, Coca-Cola's "Open Happiness" campaign emerged not merely as a marketing strategy but as a timely and poignant reflection of humanity's enduring spirit, offering a beacon of hope and positivity amidst the prevailing gloom.


Open Happiness Coca-Cola Ad
Source: The Coca-Cola Company

In an era marked by financial upheaval and widespread despondency, the landscape of global advertising experienced a shift. Brands were faced with the challenge of resonating with an audience burdened by economic hardships.

Coca-Cola's "Open Happiness" campaign, launched in this milieu, stood out as a luminary example of empathetic branding.

At its heart, the campaign's message was simple yet profound. It sought to remind people that even in the face of adversity, the feeling of happiness was not only attainable but just a sip away.

This ethos was not exclusive to Coca-Cola. During the Great Depression, for instance, Procter & Gamble maintained its advertising budget, focusing on trust and product reliability, thereby securing customer loyalty in challenging times.

Similarly, in the early 2010s, Hyundai's Assurance Program assured potential buyers that if they lost their jobs, they could return their new cars, reflecting an understanding of contemporary fears.

Another apt example is Airbnb's "Belong Anywhere" campaign, which, amidst growing xenophobia and global unrest, championed inclusivity and community.

Such campaigns underscore a significant principle: in times of adversity, brands that weave empathy and genuine human connection into their narratives not only survive but often thrive, leaving a lasting impact on consumers' memories.


Coca-Cola's Open Happiness Factory ad
Source: The Coca-Cola Company

The inception of Coca-Cola's "Open Happiness" campaign was a confluence of strategic thinking, creative ingenuity, and profound understanding of the global zeitgeist.

The task was entrusted to Wieden+Kennedy, an advertising agency renowned for its innovative and disruptive campaigns.

The agency, founded by Dan Wieden and David Kennedy, had a storied history of delivering memorable brand narratives, and the challenge posed by Coca-Cola during a global recession was right up their alley.

Under the leadership of Dan Wieden, a team of gifted creative professionals set to work.

They began by immersing themselves in extensive market research, seeking to understand the emotional pulse of consumers across diverse geographies. The insights gathered were clear: people were yearning for positivity, a refuge from the relentless barrage of bleak news.

Building on this, the team worked tirelessly to conceptualize a campaign that would resonate universally. The iconic phrase "Open Happiness" was not born overnight but was the result of countless brainstorming sessions, revisions, and refinements. The visual elements, drawing inspiration from the curvaceous Coca-Cola bottle, required careful crafting to seamlessly merge with the narrative.


© History Oasis

The Coca-Cola bottle, with its unmistakable contour, has a rich history dating back to its inception in the early 20th century.

Designed in 1915 by the Root Glass Company of Terre Haute, Indiana, the bottle's unique silhouette was intended to be discernible even if broken or touched in the dark. This design, known as the "hobbleskirt" or "Mae West" due to its curvaceous shape, became an emblem of the brand, distinguishing Coca-Cola in an age where imitations and counterfeit products were rampant.

It was against this backdrop of a century-old design legacy that the "Open Happiness" campaign emerged.

The tagline wasn't merely an attempt at clever wordplay. It was a conscious effort to evoke the joy and nostalgia associated with the Coca-Cola brand, tying it to the iconic bottle's shape that had become synonymous with shared moments of joy.

The contour, reminiscent of a smile, was more than just a design element; it was a symbol of the brand's commitment to spreading happiness for over a hundred years.


Open Happiness Ad that says Fizzzshh
Source: The Coca-Cola Company

Coca-Cola's "Open Happiness" campaign, with its expanse across diverse mediums, was a masterclass in holistic brand storytelling.

Television, traditionally a powerful medium for the brand, saw a series of heartwarming commercials. One such ad featured the "Happiness Truck," a whimsical vehicle that roamed city streets, surprising passersby with complimentary bottles of Coca-Cola, turning mundane urban landscapes into arenas of spontaneous joy.

In the print realm, vibrant visuals showcased exuberant individuals, families, and friends sharing Coca-Cola, with the unmistakable bottle often taking center stage. These images, often accompanied by the succinct yet evocative "Open Happiness" tagline, graced magazines and billboards worldwide.

The digital frontier was not neglected either.

Short, shareable clips and interactive content proliferated across social media platforms and websites, inviting viewers to partake in the happiness narrative. Moreover, Coca-Cola leveraged the burgeoning power of influencer partnerships, integrating celebrity endorsements seamlessly into their online content.

Retail spaces, too, became immersive extensions of the campaign. In-store displays, interactive kiosks, and promotional events turned shopping experiences into moments of delight, often echoing the campaign's overarching theme of finding happiness in the everyday.


Coca-Cola Happiness Truck
Source: The Coca-Cola Company

The allure of the "Happiness Truck" commercial was embedded in its simplicity.

Drawing on the universal language of generosity and surprise, it resonated deeply across varied cultures and demographics. As the truck made its way through urban thoroughfares, its joyful intent unfolded. In the words of American author and cultural critic, Clark, "The city is a fact in nature, like a cave, a run of mackerel or an ant-heap. But it is also a conscious work of art." This commercial turned that "conscious work of art" into a canvas of shared joy and community bonding.

Coca-Cola's approach was encapsulated perfectly by Angel's timeless words, "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." Through the "Happiness Truck," viewers were transported to moments of genuine human connection and unbridled joy, the essence of what Coca-Cola aimed to convey.

This ad became a touchstone, a symbol of the campaign's central tenet, as summed up by another adage, often attributed to Pliny the Elder, "Ex Africa semper aliquid novi" - "Out of Africa, there's always something new." Here, it wasn’t about geographical discovery, but the unearthing of new moments of happiness in familiar urban landscapes.


Open Happiness Ad that says gulp
Source: The Coca-Cola Company

In the late 2000’s, many established beverage brands, accustomed to consistent growth and loyalty, were confronted with diminishing sales figures and waning brand enthusiasm. Consumer spending was reined in, leading to a preference for essential commodities over branded indulgences.

PepsiCo, for instance, faced challenges with its flagship soda, Pepsi, experiencing a decline in its market position. Dr. Pepper and Snapple, despite their longstanding history, too, felt the squeeze as consumers became more frugal and discerning. Niche beverage companies, peddling luxury or non-essential drinks, witnessed significant contractions in their consumer base.

In this challenging milieu, Coca-Cola's "Open Happiness" campaign was a beacon of astute marketing acumen. By presenting not just a beverage, but a message of hope, resilience, and simple joy, Coca-Cola tapped into the universal human yearning for positivity amid adversity. Their strategic pivot from mere product advertising to emotional storytelling provided a refreshing contrast to the often bleak narratives of the times.

The result was telling. While many of its competitors grappled with stalling momentum, Coca-Cola experienced a notable uplift in sales, defying the prevailing economic trends.


Open Happiness Coca-Cola Ad with a sunset
Source: The Coca-Cola Company

With the "Open Happiness" campaign, Coca-Cola astutely recognized the potential of such associations in an era dominated by celebrity culture.

Brad Pitt, with his global stature and philanthropic endeavors, lent an air of authenticity and gravitas to the campaign. His portrayal not just as a Hollywood icon, but as an individual finding joy in everyday moments, made the campaign's message universally relatable.

Zac Efron, a rising star of that period, appealed to a younger demographic. His youthful exuberance and relatability became instrumental in communicating the brand's message to a generation coming of age amidst economic uncertainty. By aligning with Efron, Coca-Cola effortlessly bridged generational gaps, presenting its century-old beverage as both timeless and relevant.

Katy Perry, a pop sensation known for her vivacious and colorful persona, brought an effervescence to the campaign. Her inclusion resonated particularly with the global music audience, turning the campaign's messaging into a lyrical exploration of happiness.

Beyond mere endorsements, these celebrities were integrated into the campaign's narrative, embodying its ethos rather than just promoting it.

They appeared in commercials, print ads, and even participated in interactive digital content, creating a multi-dimensional engagement with the audience.