Counter-Cola: A Multinational History of the Global Corporation


Coca-Cola is an icon of globalization. Few things are more closely identified with global capitalism than “The Real Thing,” as one of The Coca-Cola Company’s memorable advertising campaigns branded the drink. But precisely how is Coke global? Coca-Cola is the single most widely distributed branded commodity on the planet. More nation-states have Coca-Cola products than are members of the United Nations.[i]  Nearly three-quarters of The Coca-Cola Company’s revenue comes from international sales.[ii]  Since Interbrand started ranking the most valuable brands in the world in 2000, Coca-Cola has topped the list twelve times.[iii]  And, perhaps most relevant in gauging its popular significance, “Coca-Cola” is the second most widely known word on earth, trailing only “OK.” Second-place status being unacceptable to a company accustomed to being at the top, in 1996, CEO Roberto Goizueta assured investors that Coca-Cola has “the trademark rights to [OK] in many markets, too . . . ”[iv]

But the global significance of Coca-Cola emerges from a history far more complicated than its ubiquitous branded bottles and cans. Indeed, precisely because of how the commodity has become a material and symbolic presence in global daily life, people from all over the planet have narrated global capitalism through it, redeploying Coca-Cola to create disruptions and alternatives to the world figured in Goizueta’s report to his investors. The histories of the corporation and the struggles that have represented, resisted, and remade the brand of globalization that Coca-Cola signifies are constitutive of the corporation’s “world.” The history of this world, the subject of Counter-Cola, suggests that “The Real Thing” is something quite different.
[i] Mark Pendergrast, For God, Country, and Coca-Cola:  The Definitive History of the Great American Soft Drink and the Company That Makes It (New York:  Basic Books, 2000), 10.
[ii] Maude Barlow and Tony Clarke, Blue Gold:  The Fight to Stop the Corporate Theft of the World's Water (NY: New Press, 2002), 147.
[iii] “The 100 Top Brands,” Business Week August 1, 2005, 90-94.
[iv] The Coca-Cola Company (TCCC), 1995 Annual Report, 14-16.

This page has paths:

This page references: