How to Beat Coke

(This post follows on from Brand: New Religion and Coat Tales & AristoChavs)

Coca-Cola is massive. You don’t need to work in branding to know that. But a revelation from the third and final episode of Secrets of the Superbrands might just surprise you.

Because Coca-Cola has beaten its rivals in the soft drinks industry, the company now defines how big its market is by ‘global share of throat’: how much of humanity’s liquid it is providing.

This means the company’s competition is no longer confined to the likes of Pepsi and 7 Up; it’s taking on the big boys: tea, beer, coffee, wine and even water.

But for a company that’s actively competing for the hydration of the human race, Coca-Cola has a thorn in its side:

  • Coca-Cola sells 17,361 servings every second.
  • Coca-Cola is sold in more countries than there are members of the United Nations.
  • Either Coke or a Coca-Cola owned beverage is the number one soft drink in every country in the world…

… except one.


Here, despite Coke’s best efforts, local beverage Irn-Bru still holds the top spot.

But how can a company that sells a comparatively miniscule 12 servings every second hold off a global superbrand? Why do Scots buy more Irn-Bru?

Alex Riley, the presenter of Secrets of the Superbrands, asks this very question to a number of different people.

“The character of the brand is very closely linked to the character of Scotland,” says Irn-Bru’s commercial director.

“Because it’s Scottish,” says a bloke on the street. “Pride.”

It seems Irn-Bru’s success is just as much down to what it represents as to how it tastes. And we think that the reason many Scottish people see it as representative of their heritage, their nation and even their identity is simple: consistent and effective brand storytelling.

From ads that ran, like this:

To ads that never ran, like these.

To multi-channel campaigns, like this:

The Irn-Bru story has always been told with wit, humour and a sense of individuality that truly resonates with the target audience. This has a knock-on effect; members of the target audience use the product to help tell their own personal stories.

That’s how to beat Coke.

You can catch up with the final Secrets of the Superbrands on iPlayer.


About Tom Edwards

A breathtakingly handsome strategist-turned creative, Tom has a passion for words and a penchant for burritos. When he’s not coming up with bright ideas for clients, he’s peddling luxury baking ingredients and posh beer with LittlePod, a company he helped set up in 2009. Writing and filmmaking skillz aside, he enjoys obscure Internet memes, pale ale and writing bios for the agency ‘characters’ page.

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