Gladys Santiago

What Does Coca-Cola’s “Live Positively” Campaign Really Communicate?

Posted in Advertising, Branding by Gladys Santiago on December 27, 2009

The last Coca-Cola ad campaign I remember being launched was “Open Happiness,” which included a catchy jingle that never once mentioned the brand. I thought this was pretty clever and original. Fast-forward a few months and Coca-Cola is beginning a new campaign to promote the brand as being part of a healthy lifestyle because it’s now offering clearer nutrition/calorie labeling and smaller portion sizes. This whole approach is very reminiscent of the changes McDonald’s made to its menu shortly after the fast-food bashing documentary, Super Size Me was released. We all know junk food and sugary drinks aren’t healthy choices, so these attempts at promoting better nutrition and physical activity is kind of like pissing in the wind.

Granted, Coca-Cola’s latest campaign isn’t only about encouraging healthy lifestyles, (ha!) it also touts the beverage giant’s positive impact on communities and encourages people to “make a difference.” This campaign by the way is eerily called “Live Positively” and features a logo that consists of a plus sign and Coke’s signature red and white branding. I believe “Live Positively” was only recently introduced in the United States, but has been used throughout other countries for sometime. I understand the campaign is supposed to communicate empowerment and social responsibility, but the name and imagery reminds me of HIV/AIDS. I know that I’m not reading too much into “Live Positively” because you don’t have to be a master in semiotic analysis to correlate the campaigns symbols with HIV/AIDS. Project Red is a lot subtler in its branding and it’s goal is actually to promote HIV/AIDS awareness.

Even though the disease doesn’t carry the stigma that it once did during the 1980s, the idea of “living positively” is not an ideal. I know Coca-Cola means to inspire positive thinking and positive actions, but the campaign is susceptible to too much misinterpretation. And images like the one above do not help because what I see, and I’m sure others see, is a sort of life-monitoring reading that flatlines. It’s something I would expect Adbusters or other culture jammers to create, not the company itself.

Image via: Coca-Cola Newsletters

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2 Responses

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  1. mike said, on August 17, 2010 at 11:19 pm

    The red orb caught my attention, because I couldn’t tell what it was supposed to be.

    A smiley made with plus and parenthesis?
    A flag from China or USSR?
    An Islamic star and crescent?
    A cross over a crescent?

    I suspect it has red to match Coke, plus to be positive, and curve to smile. Still it has too many associations to be iconic to Coke.

  2. Andrew said, on September 1, 2010 at 5:27 pm

    In South Africa this campaign has been relabelled “Live for a Difference” – but the icon remains. Your point about the perceived link with HIV/Aids is particularly pertinent here because the rate of infection is of pandemic proportion – hence the relabelling exercise. I also hear that CC worldwide is now considering adopting the new name.

    The plus sign and the smiley face on the red background are all meant to represent “joy + the Coke disc”


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