VICE PRESIDENT, GLOBAL DESIGN, THE COCA-COLA COMPANY
BY JENNIFER SCHREIER PELCZARSKI
Established in 1886, from humble beginnings in downtown Atlanta, The Coca-Cola Company was built on leadership, collaboration, integrity, accountability, passion, diversity and quality. These val- ues are a testament to the company’s continued success, as it celebrates its 125th Anniversary this year. David Butler, Vice President Global Design is the man now responsible for upholding the design legacy and iconic status of the worlds largest beverage company.
It is a well-known fact that in May of 1886, John Pemberton invented Coca-Cola by producing the perfect serving at the right temperature with the right amount of product and in the right packaging, which ninety years ago turned out to be the contour innovation of the bottle. It was his partner and book-keeper, Frank Robinson who was responsible for creating the first logo with its distinctive cursive script. This was the beginning of an international brand in the making and business has never been better.
Coca-Cola products are sold throughout the world, creating value in operating communities. Cultural knowledge contributes to the design of the brand for a specific location. This is an integral component the success of their working relationships around the world and exemplify why a portfolio of 3,000 products from 500 brands are globally recognized in over 200 countries.
“The whole business model is about leverage and driving scale around the world,” stated Butler. “Authenticity is hard to achieve, but in order to maximize effectiveness, we also recognized we had to approach design with consistency, adaptability and cultural relevance, across our business.”
Always looking at ways to grow business, Butler and his team developed a web-based and digital management platform. This ‘design machine’ is an operating system that can customize designs in real time to operate in any country, while still adhering to brand standards. Every day there are 23,000 users of this system, which amounts to overall cost savings and the growth of an already immense supply chain.
However, one of the challenges that any company experiences is how to reach multiple audiences. As the population continues to grow, Coca-Cola is capturing the widest range of consumers through diligent research and the recruitment of multiple age groups by relating specific products to their lifestyle.
Butler believes that “great design is all about context. The things people love the most are designed to feel almost intuitive.” His goal is to help everyone design better and think big about design in an altruistic way. This global context and very holistic worldview philosophy has been validated by his frequent travels.
“I remember one time in Indonesia, I walked through a very urban neighborhood in Jakarta where the poverty was extreme. Most of the people I met lived on less that one dollar a day. The next day I was in Bali, standing in an ancient temple on the side of a cliff overlooking the sea with one of the most breathtaking views I’ve ever seen. I couldn’t help but be struck with a sense of wonder that both of these things could exist in the same country.”
The world is much more complicated than ever before, and in looking towards the future the key is design engagement and creating value across all mediums. Internally, Butler and his team call this ‘brand love and brand value.’ Then he summarized with a thought from Andy Warhol, “What’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coke. Just think, you can drink Coke, too!” Indeed, that says it all.