Coca-Cola goes back to its roots with focus on empathy

Brand purpose urges consumers to 'understand each other'.

Coca-Cola: new ad features cameo by Lyonne
Coca-Cola: new ad features cameo by Lyonne

Coca-Cola has unveiled "Unite and uplift" as its new brand purpose – which, as it turns out, isn’t new at all.

Following Coke's former president Robert Woodruff, who spearheaded the brand’s focus on emotive content nearly a century ago, Walter Susini, senior vice-president of marketing EMEA, hailed the brand as one that will "never shy away from political or social issues".

"The world is more divided than ever because we don’t understand each other," Susini told Campaign.

"We’ve had this brand purpose for 134 years. We’ve just been refreshing it depending on what was relevant in society at that moment in time.

"There is clearly an empathy gap, so if we are the brand that wants to bring people together, we need to go to the cause – the divisions we have today are consequence to the fact that we don’t talk to each other and share ideas."

Focusing on sustainability, cultural relevance and innovation across the brand, Coke is launching a new campaign exploring the harsh truth: "Can I be wrong?"

Unite and uplift: ad focuses on bringing people together through listening.

Created by Wieden & Kennedy London and building on last year’s Christmas campaign – which portrayed Santa Claus as an immigrant – the ad follows a collective of angry citizens as they yell about who is right and wrong in a series of domestic scenarios.

Things take a turn, however, when physical cracks begin to appear on the cityscape, causing buildings to crumble and roads to split. Russian Doll’s Natasha Lyonne then appears and suggests that society may be able to change for the better if people claim responsibility for their actions.

The film is set to launch across multiple European countries next week, with plans to be shown at events such as Pride and Premier League and Uefa matches, as well as during Christmas and other religious holidays. It was created by Ben Shaffery and Molly Wilkof, and directed by Steve Rogers through Somesuch.

In the past year, Coca-Cola has launched a series of campaigns that reference its new brand purpose. While a collaboration with Diesel led to an eco-friendly fashion range, July’s "Open, taste, recycle with us" made recycling easier with billboards pointing to the nearest collection bin.

Delving further into Coke's archives, the classic "Hilltop" spot from 1971 saw young people from all around the world come together to sing a message of inclusivity.