Taste the Feeling


© History Oasis
“Don’t count the people you reach; reach the people that count.”

—David Olgilvy

In the midst of the 2010s, the globe witnessed profound socio-political changes and heightened connectivity, as the surge of social media platforms, such as Snapchat and Instagram, transformed societal interactions and the dissemination of global events.

The era, marked by the rise of identity politics, the refugee crisis, and an increasing demand for authentic, unfiltered expressions of daily life, found resonance in Coca-Cola's "Taste the Feeling" campaign.

Through its emphasis on genuine human moments and universal emotions, the campaign tapped into a collective yearning for shared experiences and unity amidst a rapidly evolving world landscape.


A Black couple enjoying a Coke in a Taste the Feeling Ad
Source: The Coca-Cola Company

The inception of Coca-Cola's "Taste the Feeling" campaign, a notable successor to the preceding "Open Happiness" era that had its origins in 2009.

This transition occurred amidst a backdrop of significant global flux: with the digital age firmly established, social media platforms burgeoned, redefining global communication, while socio-political upheavals from the European refugee crisis to the crescendo of identity politics dominated headlines.

Amidst this, Wieden+Kennedy, an ad agency steeped in history with Coca-Cola, undertook the monumental task of devising a campaign that would resonate in this new age. This was the same agency credited with the creation of the 1971's unforgettable "I'd Like to Buy the World a Coke", an advert that epitomized the spirit of unity in a post-1960s world grappling with socio-cultural shifts.

Looking into the creation process of "Taste the Feeling", Wieden+Kennedy sought to echo the timeless universal appeal reminiscent of their '71 classic. They realized that in a digital age characterized by fragmentation, there was a deep-seated yearning for authenticity and shared human experiences.

In response, the "Taste the Feeling" campaign was meticulously crafted to capture these real, unfiltered moments, each anchored by the iconic beverage. The campaign's evocative imagery, interwoven with narratives of everyday life, endeavored to transcend geopolitical boundaries, mirroring the '71 ad's ethos but contextualized for a contemporary audience.


Siente El Sabor Ad
Source: The Coca-Cola Company

Coca-Cola unveiled a campaign of unprecedented magnitude in 2016.

Spanning across more than 200 nations, this audacious endeavor distinguished itself as one of the most extensive marketing operations ever embarked upon by the iconic brand.

With an estimated financial outlay exceeding $1 billion, this campaign was emblematic of the risks and rewards inherent to such vast corporate undertakings in the age of worldwide connectivity.

Analysts surmised that the colossal investment was both proof to Coca-Cola's confidence in the campaign's message and a demonstration of its commitment to solidifying its place in global markets.

As time unfolded, the gamble appeared to bear fruit—a surge in sales validated the brand's strategic foresight. It was not merely the vastness of its outreach, but the resonance of its core message that catalyzed this success.

Set against a backdrop of political upheavals, a burgeoning digital culture, and shifting consumer preferences, Coca-Cola's campaign served as a beacon of nostalgia and unity. It reinforced the brand's age-old position as a shared global experience, irrespective of regional differences.


A guy playing a guitar in a Taste the Feeling Ad
Source: The Coca-Cola Company

Before the advent of the "Taste the Feeling" initiative, Coca-Cola's approach mirrored many global behemoths, segmenting their vast portfolio through a plethora of product-centric campaigns. Each of these campaigns catered to specific niches, leveraging individual product attributes and targeting distinct demographics.

However, with "Taste the Feeling", Coca-Cola embarked on a transformative journey, akin to other giants of the era.

For instance, Apple, once segmenting its message across devices like the iPhone, iPad, and MacBook, began to emphasize the cohesive ecosystem their products formed. Similarly, Unilever, a conglomerate with myriad consumer brands, launched campaigns underscoring their overarching commitment to sustainability, rather than merely spotlighting individual product benefits.

The shift towards a singular, cohesive brand message, as seen with Coca-Cola's move, was indicative of the times.

The global consumer landscape of the early 21st century, rife with information overload and brand saturation, necessitated clarity.


Two girls enjoying a Coke in a Taste the Feeling ad
Source: The Coca-Cola Company

During the mid-2010s, amidst the cacophony of digital advances and global upheavals, Coca-Cola's "Taste the Feeling" campaign emerged as a beacon of simplicity and authenticity.

Eschewing the grandeur and opulence often associated with brand campaigns of yesteryears, these advertisements celebrated the mundane, the moments often overlooked but universally experienced.

The visuals were arresting in their ordinariness: a young couple sharing a Coke on a sun-drenched porch, friends clinking bottles in a moment of camaraderie, or an individual stealing a solitary moment of refreshment.

There was a deliberate absence of the extraordinary—instead, the spotlight shone on genuine human emotions—laughter, contemplation, joy, and camaraderie. The subtle choreography of these vignettes evoked a universality, capturing the shared human experience across continents and cultures.

The campaign, in its deliberate choice of subjects, painted a mosaic of humanity.

People of different ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds graced the screen, each finding a moment of connection with the iconic beverage. This inclusivity was both a nod to the brand's global footprint and a reflection of an increasingly interconnected world.


Cover for Avicii Taste the Feeling song
Source: The Coca-Cola Company

As the "Taste the Feeling" campaign took shape in 2016, Coca-Cola, with a history replete with sonic landmarks, opted for an auditory emblem to bolster their narrative.

The birth of the song "Taste the Feeling" was not merely a brand jingle—it was an anthem aiming to resonate globally, much like the beverage it celebrated.

The strategic decision to craft various versions of the track demonstrated a nuanced understanding of the varied tapestry of their global audience.

Different regions, cultures, and moments demanded distinct musical inflections, and Coca-Cola, ever the global brand, was keenly aware of this. By collaborating with prominent artists of the era, they ensured contemporary relevance and wide appeal.

Avicii, the Swedish maestro known for his electronic beats, infused the track with a rhythmic pulse that resonated with younger, dance-inclined audiences. On the other hand, Conrad Sewell, with his distinct vocal timbre, added depth and emotion, grounding the song in authenticity.

The inclusion of such artists was not merely a nod to popularity but a reflection of the campaign's commitment to authenticity and universal appeal.

Historically, brands have sought partnerships with artists for reach and recognition, but "Taste the Feeling" aimed for emotional resonance.


An Indian girl sipping a Coke in a Taste the Feeling Ad
Source: The Coca-Cola Company

Coca-Cola's "Taste the Feeling" campaign was crafted, reflecting the brand's astute recognition of the times. While traditional mediums remained potent, the allure of the digital realm, particularly social media, was undeniable.

Understanding the power and personal nature of social media, the campaign ventured beyond mere passive engagement.

The interactive website, a pivotal digital component, offered users a platform to not just consume, but to co-create, blurring the lines between brand and consumer.

This was a masterstroke in an era where personal narratives, shared on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, had become a form of social currency.

The decision to allow users to customize their own Coke stories was emblematic of the zeitgeist. It spoke to the ethos of personalization and democratization that platforms like Snapchat and Instagram thrived on.

The campaign, rather than asserting a monolithic brand narrative, invited users into a participatory dialogue, making them co-authors in the brand's story.

In doing so, Coca-Cola harnessed the essence of social media—a space for collective storytelling, interaction, and community.

Every custom Coke story, shared across personal timelines and feeds—served as both endorsement and engagement, amplifying the campaign's reach.


A black girl sipping a Coke in the Taste the Feeling ad
Source: The Coca-Cola Company

As the 2010s unfurled, there was a marked departure from the high sheen and gloss of yesteryears' campaigns. "Taste the Feeling" emerged as a paragon of this shift, choosing a path less trodden by its contemporaries: the realm of photo-realism.

The images presented in the campaign were not just advertisements but vignettes of everyday life.

A family around a dinner table, with Coke bottles as silent witnesses to their laughter—young lovers sharing a quiet moment on a park bench, the familiar red label visible between intertwined hands—or friends at a beach, with the sun casting long shadows, as a bottle was playfully passed around.

This choice of photo-realistic imagery was more than an aesthetic decision—it was a strategic one.

At a time when audiences were growing weary of overtly curated and stylized visuals, often feeling distant from them, "Taste the Feeling" offered a refreshing counterpoint. Its images were grounded, palpable, devoid of the alienating glamor, making them instantly relatable to the common viewer.

In doing so, Coca-Cola tapped into a universal truth: while aspirational imagery might draw admiration, it is the genuine, unvarnished moments that tug at the heartstrings.


Enjoying Cokes with a sunset in a Taste the Feeling Ad
Source: The Coca-Cola Company

As the 2010s advanced, amidst the digital renaissance, static billboards began to cede ground to their more interactive counterparts. The "Taste the Feeling" campaign, ever at the vanguard of innovative advertising, embraced this new frontier with aplomb.

In select markets, these interactive billboards transcended traditional boundaries.

No longer confined to the role of mere observers, passersby found themselves participants in an immersive brand narrative. One could recall a billboard where the effervescence of a poured Coke would react to people walking by, the bubbles playfully mimicking their pace. Another ingenious installation allowed individuals to "toast" with the characters on the display, celebrating a shared moment of refreshment.

These billboards, equipped with sensors and digital interfaces, transformed mundane commutes and pedestrian wanderings into moments of surprise and delight. Such interactivity transcended mere novelty—it fostered a deeper, more visceral connection between the observer and the brand, turning fleeting glances into memorable engagements.


A waitress delivering Cokes in a Taste the Feeling Ad
Source: The Coca-Cola Company

Tracing the lineage of Coca-Cola's branding reveals a mosaic of symbols, each bearing the weight of particular eras and cultural shifts.

As the "Taste the Feeling" campaign unfurled its narrative in the 2010s, connoisseurs and everyday consumers alike noticed a nostalgic nod: the resurrection of time-honored elements that had once been the hallmarks of the brand.

Central to this return was the iconic contour bottle, a design so distinctive that its silhouette alone evoked memories of bygone days.

Originating in the early 20th century, this bottle had become synonymous with the brand, representing a tangible connection between consumers and their cherished beverage. By recentering it in the campaign, Coca-Cola tapped into a reservoir of collective memory, blending the comfort of the familiar with the excitement of the new.

Equally evocative was the reintroduction of the dynamic ribbon. This swirling motif, with its vibrant red and effervescent white, had danced across previous campaigns, symbolizing the zest and vitality of the drink.

By weaving these classic elements into a contemporary narrative, Coca-Cola demonstrated a profound understanding of its own history and its audience's psyche.

In a rapidly changing world, where brands constantly vied for relevance, "Taste the Feeling" stood as a testament to the enduring power of heritage, showing that sometimes, the path forward is illuminated by the gentle glow of the past.