What on Earth is Coca-Cola?

A weird thing happened today. Reading a book, “Coca-Cola” and “Coke” struck me as truly odd words. There’s something disgusting about the somersault into which your vocal chords are forced when saying “Coca-Cola Coke”, as if you are choking.

I then started to doubt whether Coca-Cola even exists. I know it’s probably the most recognised brand in the whole world, but it has been so long since I’ve seen anything about Coca-Cola or thought about Coca-Cola (much less drank any of it) that another part of my brain questioned whether it was a real thing.

Why did this happen? I see three possible explanations:

1. Coke has become such a ubiquitous brand that we now no longer notice it. It has become like the sky or the concrete of the pavements we walk upon. The marketing ‘event horizon’ between maximum visibility and complete invisibility has been crossed.

2. I spent the last year in Monreal, Quebec: one of the few places in the world where Pepsi consistently outsells Coke. So true is this fact, that “Pepsi” or “Pepper” has become a mild ethnic slur for French Canadians.

3. My Escapological drive to avoid television and advertising in general has been a success. Being absent from offices where people drink Coca-Cola bought from vending machines (or “Coke machines”) and talk about Coca-Cola as if it were the only thing that gets them out of bed in the morning, is an unanticipated effect of my change in working practices.

I don’t specifically have anything against Coca-Cola. Though I usually drink water or beer in its place, I don’t find it bad to drink. As advertising goes, a high-budget Coca-Cola advert isn’t even that bad. I just haven’t thought about it in such a long time and this, I think, is a little indicator of (and testament to) the Escapological effect of waterproofing yourself against marketing and moving in a slightly different circle to the typical worker-punter. It works to the extent that I questioned the very existence of the most ubiquitous product ever promoted.


Robert Wringham is the editor of New Escapologist. He also writes books and articles. Read more at wringham.co.uk

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