Coca-Cola Updates Famous Ad for Social Media World
The following commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet's guest contributor program, which is separate from the company's news coverage.
NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The recent news that Harvey Gabor has come out of retirement may not immediately ring any bells. But eight simple words that Gabor helped make famous certainly will: "I'd like to buy the world a Coke."
It was Gabor who in 1971 gathered dozens of young men and women from around the world to a hilltop in Italy, to announce in song their desire "to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony."
Almost overnight, the resulting TV commercial became an international sensation. Over four decades later, Gabor traveled to New York to meet with Google employees and help forge a strategic Coca-Cola(KO) marketing initiative all the more significant because it so directly weds the lure of the past with the tools of the future.
As the young Google staffers introduced Gabor to the powers of Web-based social networking, he gave them the benefit of his own experience in advertising and human nature. The meeting of generations produced an inspired idea.
Instead of just singing about buying the world a Coke, you can actually do so. Users may select from several cities around the world, and then "deliver" a Coke to a total stranger at a special vending machine located in that city. You can send a video message so that the lucky recipients know who sent the drink and they, in turn, can post a response (fully translated and close-captioned) that will reach you wherever you are.
The power of social networking is thus taken one step further -- from a cozy online community to a real-time, person-to-person experience.
Back in 1971 -- also an era of global strife, hatred, and uncertainty -- those fresh, diverse, unthreatening faces and their elegiac song offered a message of hope. By implication, Coca-Cola was itself more than just a carbonated beverage. It was a symbol of community and shared optimism about our ability to overcome our troubles.
Some 100,000 viewers wrote letters praising the commercial -- almost unheard of at a time when, instead of clicking "LIKE," you actually had to put pen to paper and lick an envelope in order to show appreciation.
How can a TV campaign from the Woodstock era speak to a new generation?
In fact, nostalgia is one of the most powerful psychological compulsions of our time and, if leveraged properly, an enormously effective mechanism for brand enhancement -- especially in the Internet age when the social media have already created their own communities in search of just such cohering psychic and economic threads.
There are two messages: the love-in itself, and the updated media by which it can now be restaged and reinvigorated. As such, both messages can speak eloquently to (at least) two generations.