You almost have to feel bad for soda-makers. For an industry that brings us so much joy in a plethora of forms, from a good-natured slushy to a tempting rum and coke, they sure have been getting pummelled recently.
There was the soda tax. Then there was the ban on giant cups altogether. Poor Coca-Cola—the literal and figurative weight of North America’s obese is being hoisted on their big red shoulders.
Poor, poor, multi-billion dollar conglomerate.
No question, Coke’s PR firm is working overtime to help soften their image. In a new two-minute promotional video, Coca-Cola expressed a commitment to helping turn the tides of rising obesity rates with its low or no-calorie pops, juices, and waters.
“All calories count, no matter where they come from,” the video says. “If you eat and drink more calories than you burn off, you’ll gain weight.” The video continues to detail Coke’s efforts to fight obesity: calorie counts listed on the cans, smaller portions, sugar-free or calorie-free options (because who doesn’t love a Diet Coke, that vaguely sweet taste of fizzy battery acid).
No question, Coke is part of the problem and far from a part of the solution as they so desperately claim to be in their advertising. We’ve established that sugary drinks are linked to obesity in a big way, and while it’s absurd that you can buy yourself a Double-Down but not a 16 oz. Dr. Pepper to wash it down, some regulation is at least a start. What Coke needs to stop doing is deluding themselves into believing they are, in any way, the good guys so that they can stop trying to delude others into believing the same thing.
They just need to own it.
For the past few years, pop has been routinely referred to as the new cigarette. In terms of how soda companies are handling themselves, it’s an apt comparison. They’re spending millions fighting against taxes that hurt them, trying to rebrand in new ways that don’t actually change the effects of the product, and trying as hard as they can to ignore the mounting evidence that proves how terrible they are for your health.
Remember when cigarette companies tried to convince us that a filter meant it was better for you? Or, alternatively, when Philip Morris launched a multi-million dollar campaign in the 90s to convince young people not to smoke?
That was cute.
If they’re following the same pattern, then maybe Coca-Cola should learn a lesson from cigarette marketing: at a certain point, you just need to own what you are.
A cigarette is terrible for you. It’s addictive and it kills people. No one likes a smoker anymore. But look, if you enjoy smoking, having a cigarette after a long day is the best thing in the world, and the people who make cigarettes know that. That’s all they have left.
A Coke is terrible for you. It can make you gain weight which increases your risk of diabetes, heart disease and other ailments. It rots your teeth. But look, if you have a sweet tooth, a cold, bubbly bottle of Coca-Cola with a slice of pizza is the best thing in the world.
The industry needs to accept its place in the diets of North Americans. It might not be the one they want—the great, low-cal alternative—but it’s the one they’re going to be stuck with as people become more and more educated about how to drink in moderation.
Image credit: Coca-Cola Co./YouTube