Coca-Cola history began on this day, March 29 in 1886 when the curiosity of an Atlanta pharmacist, Dr. John S. Pemberton, led him to create a distinctive tasting soft drink that could be sold at soda fountains. He created a flavored syrup, took it to his neighborhood pharmacy, where it was mixed with carbonated water and deemed excellent by those who sampled it. Dr. Pemberton’s partner and bookkeeper, Frank M. Robinson, is credited with naming the beverage Coca Cola as well as designing the trademarked, distinct script, still used today.
The first servings of Coca Cola were sold for 5 cents per glass. During the first year, sales averaged a modest nine servings per day in Atlanta. Today, daily servings of Coca Cola beverages are estimated at 1.9 billion globally.
Prior to his death in 1888, just two years after creating what was to become the world’s #1-selling carbonated beverage, Dr. Pemberton sold portions of his business to various parties, with the majority of the interest sold to Atlanta businessman Asa G. Candler. Under Candler’s leadership, distribution of Coca Cola expanded to soda fountains beyond Atlanta. In 1894, impressed by the growing demand for Coca Cola and the desire to make the beverage portable, Joseph Biedenharn installed bottling machinery in the rear of his Mississippi soda fountain, becoming the first to put Coca Cola in bottles. Large scale bottling was made possible just five years later, when in 1899, three enterprising businessmen in Chattanooga, Tennessee secured exclusive rights to bottle and sell Coca Cola. The three entrepreneurs purchased the bottling rights from Asa Candler for just $1. Benjamin Thomas, Joseph Whitehead and John Lupton developed what became the Coca Cola worldwide bottling system.
The first marketing efforts in Coca Cola history were coupons promoting free samples of the beverage. Considered an innovative tactic back in 1887, couponing was followed by newspaper advertising and the distribution of promotional items bearing the Coca Cola script to participating pharmacies.
Fast forward to the 1970s when Coca Cola’s advertising started to reflect a brand connected with fun, friends and good times. Many fondly remember the 1971 Hilltop Singers performing I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke , or the 1979 Have a Coke and a Smile commercial featuring a young fan giving Pittsburgh Steeler, Mean Joe Greene a refreshing bottle of Coca Cola.
One of the most famous advertising slogans in Coca Cola history The Pause That Refreshes first appeared in the Saturday Evening Post in 1929. The theme of pausing with Coca Cola refreshment is still echoed in today’s marketing.