You Can't Beat The Feeling


© History Oasis
"Coca-Cola is more than just a drink. It's a feeling. It's a refreshing new feeling that you can only get from the real thing."

—Coca-Cola ad campaign, 1988

In 1988, amidst the backdrop of rapid globalization, technological advancements, and the end of the Cold War, Coca-Cola, seeking to resonate with a new generation and reposition itself, launched its "You Can't Beat The Feeling" campaign.

Crafted by the renowned advertising agency McCann-Erickson and brought to life under the cinematic expertise of director Ridley Scott, this slogan aimed to capture the spirit of an era that was hungry for change and modernity.

The campaign, underscored by the contemporary rhythms of "The Refreshing Feeling" by the J. Geils Band, not only revived Coca-Cola's appeal in the zeitgeist of the late 1980s but also mirrored the broader societal shift towards rejuvenation and innovation.


You Can't Beat the Feeling Coca-Cola Ad from the 1980s
Source: The Coca-Cola Company

The 1980s witnessed the soft drink industry locked in unprecedented competition, particularly between Coca-Cola and its arch-rival, PepsiCo.

Pepsi's "Choice of a New Generation" campaign, bolstered by the endorsements of pop icons, had successfully courted the youth market, creating an imperative for Coca-Cola to recalibrate its image.

With an illustrious history that spanned a century, Coca-Cola faced the dual challenge of honoring its legacy while appealing to the rapidly changing tastes and aspirations of a younger audience.

In this context, the "You Can't Beat The Feeling" campaign emerged as Coca-Cola's strategic response, an endeavor to reposition itself as not just a timeless classic, but also a modern, refreshing choice for the contemporary consumer.

Coca-Cola sought to depict itself as in step with the zeitgeist of the '80s—a decade characterized by technological advancements, cultural revolutions, and a seismic shift towards globalization.

The aim was not merely to retain market share, but to also communicate to the world that Coca-Cola could evolve, innovate, and remain relevant. This intention to be perceived as "modern" was not just about aesthetic appeal, but about ensuring survival and dominance in an increasingly competitive and dynamic market landscape.


Coca-Cola's You Can't Beat The Feeling Ad Campaign
Source: The Coca-Cola Company

As the 1980s unfolded, there was a distinct and global cultural shift, with youth at its vanguard.

The younger generation was pushing boundaries, reshaping music, fashion, and technology, and asserting its economic influence. Recognizing this, Coca-Cola's marketing strategy pivoted to tap into this youthful dynamism with its "You Can't Beat The Feeling" slogan and accompanying commercials.

One particularly memorable commercial showcased a group of teenagers skateboarding through a sunlit city, their laughter echoing as they paused to refresh with Coca-Cola.

Another iconic spot featured young musicians jamming in a garage, pausing only to take a sip from the iconic red can, symbolizing the beverage's role in fueling their passion and creativity.

Such commercials were not arbitrary choices. They represented the nexus of youthful energy, aspiration, and the quintessential refreshing experience that Coca-Cola sought to embody.

By centering young people in its advertisements, Coca-Cola was making a clear statement: the brand was evolving to resonate with the aspirations and lifestyles of the next generation. This was a crucial move, especially in a decade where brand loyalties were being tested and newly-formed.

Youth, in all their rebellious, hopeful, and innovative spirit, represented the future—a future Coca-Cola was keen to be an intrinsic part of.


You Can't Beat the Feeling Ad
Source: The Coca-Cola Company

The genesis of "You Can't Beat The Feeling" is intricately tied to the expertise and creativity of McCann-Erickson, an agency known for its strategic prowess and innovative campaigns. Founded by Harrison King McCann and Alfred Erickson, this firm had a longstanding tradition of crafting narratives that resonated deeply with audiences.

As Coca-Cola sought to redefine itself for the modern age, they turned to McCann-Erickson, entrusting them with the Herculean task of reimagining a brand with an already rich legacy.

A dedicated team of copywriters, strategists, and creatives was assembled.

They embarked on extensive market research, conducting focus groups and surveys to gauge the desires of a changing consumer demographic. Amidst brainstorming sessions, drafts, and revisions, the idea for "You Can't Beat The Feeling" was born.

The slogan, simple yet evocative, was a distillation of the insights gleaned from their research, encapsulating the essence of what consumers sought in their beverages: refreshment, novelty, and a touch of nostalgia.

It wasn't just the brilliance of the phrase but the strategic rollout, backed by compelling visuals and narratives, that made it a success.


You Can't Beat the Feeling Ad from the 80s
Source: The Coca-Cola Company

The late 1980s was a competitive juncture for soft drinks, with brands vying for both market share and consumer loyalty. Against this backdrop, Coca-Cola's "You Can't Beat The Feeling" campaign stood out, not just for its creative brilliance but also for its undeniable impact on the company's bottom line.

In the immediate years following the launch of the campaign, Coca-Cola witnessed a substantial boost in sales. By the end of 1989, the company reported a 7% increase in global unit case volume, a significant number given the vast scale at which the beverage giant operated.

This uptick was not just an isolated phenomenon. Over the next few years, buoyed by the momentum of the campaign and its resonance with the target audience, sales continued their upward trajectory, further cementing Coca-Cola's position as the market leader.

It was an affirmation of Coca-Cola's ability to adapt, innovate, and connect with a changing consumer base.


Ridley Scott, a name synonymous with cinematic masterpieces like "Alien" and "Blade Runner," is not typically associated with the world of advertising.

However, in the 1980s, his directorial flair was tapped by Coca-Cola to infuse their "You Can't Beat The Feeling" campaign with a touch of Hollywood magic.

Scott, with his innate ability to create visually captivating narratives, was chosen to direct the television commercials that would serve as the linchpin of the entire campaign.

Bringing a film director of Scott's caliber on board was a strategic decision.

Coca-Cola sought to craft commercials that were not mere advertisements but mini-epic stories, brimming with emotion, drama, and aspiration.

Scott, with his trademark eye for detail and expansive visual style, transformed simple scenarios of young people enjoying the beverage into cinematic vignettes.

For instance, one particularly memorable commercial featured a dusk-till-dawn cityscape, with young revelers dancing atop skyscrapers, their silhouettes juxtaposed against the city lights, all punctuated by the refreshing sip of Coca-Cola.

It wasn't just about the beverage, but the world around it, a world of endless possibilities and youthful exuberance, a world that Scott masterfully brought to life.

In leveraging Scott's expertise, Coca-Cola's campaign transcended the realm of typical advertising, offering audiences not just a product, but a visually rich narrative experience.


© History Oasis

The J. Geils Band, already popular in the 1980s for hits like "Centerfold" and "Freeze Frame," lent their distinctive sound to Coca-Cola's "You Can't Beat The Feeling" campaign with the song "The Refreshing Feeling."

This inclusion was not merely a happenstance but a calculated move to tap into the cultural zeitgeist of the era.

The 1980s was a time of eclectic musical tastes, with rock and pop dominating the airwaves, and the J. Geils Band had successfully carved a niche for themselves with their catchy tunes and engaging performances.

"The Refreshing Feeling," while not one of their top-charting hits, gained considerable traction due to its association with the global Coca-Cola campaign.

Its upbeat tempo and memorable chorus were aptly suited for the commercials' vibrant visuals and the youthful exuberance they portrayed.

While the song might not have achieved the iconic status of some of the band's other tracks, its exposure through the Coca-Cola campaign ensured that it reached millions of households around the world.

This widespread recognition, in turn, fortified the synergy between the song, the slogan, and the beverage, creating a multi-sensory experience for the audience.

By aligning with the J. Geils Band, Coca-Cola showcased its finger on the pulse of popular culture, further solidifying the campaign's appeal to its target demographic.

The decision to incorporate "The Refreshing Feeling" into the commercials was emblematic of the brand's dedication to not just market a product but also connect with the larger cultural narratives of the time.