Several things come to mind when thinking of Atlanta: the War (as in Civil) and Coca-Cola. And, of course, the Braves if you’re a baseball fan. I could add traffic and an amazing array of fantastic eateries but that would be getting too far off track.
Back in the 1880’s, a guy named John S. Pemberton pondered a refreshing treat to get his customers through another muggy, hot Atlanta summer. Eventually, he came up with the formula (still held in great secrecy over 100 years later) for Coca-Cola. Incredibly, it wasn’t a sure thing when it first appeared – Pemberton was a pharmacist, not a marketer – and he only sold 51 drinks that first summer.
The most incredible thing about Coke has been its longevity and the army of marketing genius behind the brand – dating back to the turn of the 20th Century. Once it took off, it became a stellar money-maker and the company hasn’t looked back since. In 1919, the formula for Coke was purchased for an astounding $25 million dollars. That’s like a gazillion dollars today.
So, when one goes to Atlanta, one must visit the World of Coca-Cola. This relatively new museum occupies prime real estate downtown adjacent to Centennial Olympic Park and next to the Georgia Aquarium. There was another World of Coca-Cola but it was old, rundown, and outdated – and uninspiring. Kind of like when they changed the Coke formula.
Technology rules at the new museum; it isn’t so much an ode to the drink itself as a tribute to the marketing machine that has propelled the company since the early 1900’s. There is a little theatre where you can watch old commercials and those from other countries. There is also a theatre presentation in “4D” where the seats move, you get squirted with water, and if you can skip it you might want to – especially if you have back issues.
The best? The Pop Culture Gallery – the colourful wood carvings of Coke bottles and the giant collage piece is worth the price of admission. And then, there is the section known as Taste It! where you can taste over 60 flavours made by the Coca-Cola Company all over the world. The gift shop is everything you’d expect. Interesting tidbit: all apparel sold there is made from recycled plastic bottles.
I’m not a rabid fan of Coke but I’m glad I went to this museum. It’s a fascinating look at the vision of a few men and one of the most closely held secrets in the world.
Tomorrow: the Georgia Aquarium