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Antecedents of Brand Loyalty: The Case of Coca-Cola


This paper defines the importance of brand loyalty as a desirable outcome in the total marketing mix and personifies brand bonding in the case of a college student who cannot live without Coca-Cola. A refreshment needs to be created by advertising, demand for Coca-Cola grew via an unusually fortuitous chain of the unique product idea, affordable pricing, a franchising model that extended market reach while sharing production costs with bottlers, and a single-minded focus on availability at retail for every thirsty drinker that wanted a Coke. To build critical mass, sustainability of the business and brand loyalty, Coca-Cola has depended on consistent advertising that fostered both a highly favorable brand image and contained a hard-sell message.

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I have always been fascinated by the neighbor’s 19-year-old college kid. When all the other young guys I knew disappeared night after night in binge drinking and the newfound liberties of college, here was Francis happy at home with his computer, pizza and endless squeeze liter bottles of Coke. It had always been his drink of choice since starting school and not the zero-calorie or wimpy Cherry Coke flavor either.

Description of Person’s Loyalty to a Brand

Once brand equity has been established by promising brand strategy, differentiation, brand familiarity via sustained advertising, image-building market entry, brand relevance and eminently satisfactory performance against the brand promise, consumer marketers pursue the goal of profitable market share by enhanced market penetration and building brand loyalty. In fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG’s) like carbonated soft drinks (CSD) particularly, the concentrate makers desire the brand bonding that impels core adolescent and young adult market segments to prefer one brand during every consumption occasion to the exclusion of all others (Armstrong and Kotler, 2009). The ideal is the kind of brand loyalty that motivates a thirsty young man to try another store if the first he tried has run out of his favorite soft drink brand.

In practical terms, brand loyalty may not even be totally exclusionary. In response to brand-switching campaigns by the competition, value-added promotions, bundling deals in the supermarket, or exclusivity forged by competitors with restaurant chains a Coke drinker may occasionally drink other brands. But the company can live with that because a reasonable level of brand loyalty is the base that supports the conquest of new drinker segments and geographic areas. Without brand loyalty, CSD makers would have to offer “reasons why” to shoppers every day so as to defend volume share. But it is too expensive, in terms of advertising and promotional spending, to keep doing so.

Background on the Brand

The phenomenal story of Coca-Cola from one man’s concoction in a solitary soda fountain to market leader in America and successful world-beater is one of the remarkable and legendary success stories of the last twelve decades. It is a story of creating an entirely new product class, satisfying a nonessential want, building an enduring business model, sticking to beverages, and moving aggressively on distribution and advertising to shape brand loyalty despite shifts in market trends and occasionally successful forays by archrival Pepsi Cola.

Both the Coca-Cola recipe and unique, two-part manufacturing process date back to the summer of 1886 when Atlanta pharmacist John S. Pemberton brought a jug of his brand-new concoction down to Jacob’s pharmacy to be mixed with carbonated water and sampled. Pronounced tasty and refreshing, the drink was branded Coca-Cola right from the start and sold for five cents a glass (The Coca-Cola Company, 2009).

Success was by no means instant. That first year, Coke averaged sales of just nine glasses a day all over the city. On Pemberton’s death, Asa Chandler (also an Atlantan) acquired the controlling shares and pushed a ten-fold sales to increase with a strong advertising push, couponing, the launch of branded premiums that were to remain an important part of the marketing arsenal for over a century, and the enduring four-fold “mission” product benefit statement: “delicious, refreshing, exhilarating, invigorating!” (The Coca-Cola Company, 2009). This core message was executed most recently as the theme, “Open happiness”.

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On the matter of distribution, Candler pursued the business model he was familiar with. Less than a decade after the formula was born, he had shipped syrup to pharmacists all over the United States. It took three Chatanoogans to obtain the national bottling rights and invest in autonomous bottling plants, two of which they had in operation by 1899. In the next two decades, the three partners co-opted numerous local businessmen to blanket the nation with 1,000 plants. This became the enduring platform for market dominance not only domestically but overseas as well.

Marketing Application and Analysis

For a product class that is not essential to human survival, security or happiness, Coke has fostered brand loyalty more enduring than the temporary surges produced by the “Pepsi Challenge”. This the company has forged by associating itself with every aspect of American dining and lifestyle, as well as with highly convincing advertising themes such as “It’s the real thing,” “Real”, “Coke is it”, all of which reinforce the image of the brand as the original CSD and therefore sustain loyalty when it comes to the refreshment benefit (Ries, 2003).


This all-too-brief review has shown that the consumer loyalty accorded Coke sprang from product innovation, a franchising business model, hyper-aggressive efforts to achieve retail availability, pricing to accommodate impulse purchases, and advertising campaigns that melded a behavioral response with music, fun and the American lifestyle.


Armstrong, G., & Kotler, P. (2009). Marketing: An introduction. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall.

The Coca-Cola Company (2009). The chronicle of Coca-Cola. Web.

Ries, A. (2003). Coca-Cola gets real. Advertising Age.

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