Coca-Cola’s Anti-Obesity Campaign

(*** Please note, I am posting this under Rachael Guia’s login because of problems with my own.***)

Coca-Cola recently launched a rather strategic anti-obesity marketing campaign under the guise of a PSA.  This campaign comes at the helm of much backlash against the soda and sugary beverage industry as the public is quickly becoming more aware of all of the health implications consuming such products has on the human body.  In response, Coca-Cola cleverly addresses the issue by explicitly avoiding the issue of the ingredients in its beverages (with the exception of Dasani water); and focuses instead on the more basic issue of caloric intake to obesity rates.

Coca-Cola takes the position that taking in a less daily caloric intake leads to lower incidences of obesity.  To help aid this, the campaign tells us that Coca-Cola has created new beverage sizes ranging from a can of Coke that has a mere 90 calories on upward so that every possible consumer type can have a product to choose from.  They also strategically mention that they are constantly looking into new and emerging zero-calorie sweeteners to add to their products to further reduce one’s daily caloric intake.   Their message is simple:  drinking their products will lead to weight loss by the sheer assumption that reducing calories in, takes weight off.  By carefully avoiding the controversial issue of the ingredients in their products and stressing their efforts in reducing obesity rates, they give off the perception that they care about everybody’s health and are doing everything in their power to further the cause.

Coca-Cola even takes the proactive stance of advocating an otherwise healthy lifestyle and pairing their reduced calorie drinks with exercise.  On the surface, their campaign appears to be an informative and caring message targeted to the general population.  To the average viewer, it may also seem as though Coca-Cola is acknowledging and taking responsibility for its less than healthy beverage offerings.  However, when you really stop and think about it, their message is quite deceptive to a less sophisticated audience.  The ingredients in sugary drinks and soda have been quite topical as of late, especially in light of the recent death of an otherwise healthy young 30-something year old female who died solely of the cause of drinking too much soda everyday.  Mayor Bloomberg’s ban on 16-ounce sugary beverages (other than beverages consisting largely of milk) has also brought national attention to his controversial law to fight obesity and improve health.  There are also the (also highly controversial) NYC Subway adds that show a rather graphical depiction of what happens inside your body as you drink soda and other sugary drinks.  And let’s not forget the findings about what goes into Diet soda and its health effects (and apparent findings that consuming Diet soda actually leads to weight Gain and not loss…).  None of this is mentioned in the campaign, of course.

See the commercial here:

Coca-Cola Anti-Obesity


Tori Bass

CMGT541, Spring 2013, Section B



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2 Responses to Coca-Cola’s Anti-Obesity Campaign

  1. amonda says:

    Hi Tori,

    I really enjoyed reading your post. It is quite interesting how corporate communications (to the public) and politics share so much of the “spin” qualities that it makes one wonder if ex-politicians aren’t serving as corporate PR specialists, or if former PR specialists are serving constituents as their politician. It was obvious by Coke’s communication strategy that it wants nothing to do with discussing whether its products lead to obesity. I find it somewhat amusing how its response to the question is to deflect it to a caloric count vs. weight issue rather than the issue at hand.

    It would be easy to condemn Coke’s response as disingenuous or lacking any degree of earnest whatsoever. However, on the other hand, one could assign the moniker of “brilliant” to its ability to provide such ambiguous responses, and still lobby support for its product in the process of averting its responsibility to the public for disclosure of potential adverse health effects. Is this just effective PR, or is it unethical behavior on the part of Coke? I don’t know the correct answer to that, although instinctively I’m inclined to vote for the latter, but in reality, it still comes down to the consumers’ choice in what they eat or drink. Granted, having all of the potential health effects available to factor into our consumption decisions would be beneficial, but how likely would it be that having such data would alter the decisions of consumers to any great degree?

    Thanks for the great blog post; I really enjoyed it.

    Al Monda

  2. lweekley says:

    Coca-Cola is among the world’s most beloved brands, and perhaps nowhere is the company more revered than here, in its hometown of Atlanta. This love affair with Coke is not limited to the brand’s consumers, either. Shareholders frequently hail the iconic beverage maker as “untouchable” for its ability to thrive in every economy and consumer climate, and the folks that work at Coca-Cola’s corporate campus are often described as benign brand zealots who’ve “drunk the company Kool-Aid”.

    Yet by addressing its role in America’s obesity epidemic with a myopic focus on calories per serving, Coca-Cola threatens to insult the intelligence of its devoted consumers, shareholders, and employees. If fighting obesity were really all about the “calories in, calories out” equation, I’d be able to chug a gallon of no-calorie Coke Zero between every meal with no effect on my weight. Clearly, this is an absurd idea. The notion that a small can of Coke is “healthy” because it contains fewer calories than its larger siblings is similarly flawed.

    But I think we can take this line of inquiry even further, asking questions that stem from our roles as communicators and not just consumers. For instance:

    Can companies succeed by merely “talking the talk” of corporate social responsibility? That is, do consumers as a whole (not just savvy marketing communication students) pay enough attention to notice the divide between what Coca-Cola is saying about obesity and how the company’s products actually impact obesity rates?


    What responsibility, if any, do we have as communicators to champion “real” change instead of semantic instead of disingenuous advertising?