Soft drink company marketing tactics: the experts sound off

Saturday, January 08, 2005
by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger
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This is a compilation of quotes about soft drink company marketing tactics from some of the leading authors on health, food marketing and food politics. This full list, and much more information, is included in The Five Soft Drink Monsters downloadable ebook.

Marion Nestle
Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health

"In 1997 children spent nearly $8 billion of their own money on food and beverages, of which $1 billion each went for sweets and soft drinks. The amounts spent on food increase with age; in 1997, children aged 7-12 spent $2.3 billion of discretionary money on snacks and beverages, teenagers $58 billion."

"Children also influence a substantial proportion of the total annual sales of certain foods… 30 percent on soft drinks."

"Soft drink companies unapologetically name 8-to-12-year-olds as marketing targets. Advertisers encourage marketing directed to 9-year-olds as a logical consequence of the fact that children -- and girls in particular -- are maturing earlier."

"The reason they chose Coke or Pepsi had nothing to do with taste. . . . [We] think the advertising media targets their advertisements to appeal to teenagers because . . . [that's when you] develop buying habits and that's when you have more pressure to drink the brand that's cool."

"Researchers counted not a single commercial for fruits, vegetables, bread, or fish…. for the most frequently aired commercials such as those for sugared cereals, candy bars, and soft drinks."

"Soft drink companies are especially comprehensive in their approach to young consumers…. Coca-Cola puts its logo on so many items that it runs a chain of stores to sell them; it even has stores at international airports."

"Coca-Cola company, for example, sends multiple copies of "Coke cards" to "teen influentials" -- school officers, cheerleaders, and sports participants -- expecting that they will pass the extras along to their network of friends. These "educational" counting books and puzzles for young children require the use of cereals or cookies as tokens, provide discount coupons to encourage adults to purchase these products, and advertise the food throughout. These convert children into advertisers as well as consumers of soft drinks. "

"Critics also are troubled by studies showing that children do not readily distinguish Channel One's commercials from its entertainment, news, and public service programs and that they are confused about such distinctions. Children say, for example, that they believe Channel One advertisers such as Pepsi -Cola are "deeply committed to helping them cope with their emotional and psychological problems."

"Recent development in food marketing: large payments from soft drink companies to school districts in return for the right to sell that company's products -- and only those products -- in every one of the district's schools."

"The company's most evident marketing strategy is advertising. Coca -Cola’s global advertising budget exceeded $1.6 billion in the late 1990s. In 1999 the company spent $867 million for advertising in the United States alone -- $174.4 million for Coca-Cola beverages, $68.4 million for Sprite, $41.4 million for Minute Maid, and $17.6 million for Powerade"

"PepsiCo spends even more on advertising. Its total domestic advertising budget was $1.31 billion in 1999 -- $165 million for Pepsi beverages, $37.7 million for Mountain Dew"

"Some soft drink companies go so far as to license their logos to makers of infant-feeding bottles."

William Duffy
Sugar Blues

"A product like Coca–Cola, which contains known poisons and destroys [one’s] teeth and stomach, has one of the most stunning ad campaigns in the history of the Western world…. Coke executives have learned from extensive research that young America is searching for what is real, meaningful in this plastic world, and one bright ad executive comes up with the idea that it is Coke. Yep, Coke is the real thing and this is drilled into the minds of 97 percent of all young people between the age of six and nineteen until their teeth are rotting just like their parents' did."

"Another congressman asked if the doctor had made any tests of the effect of cola beverages on metal and iron. When the doctor said he hadn't, the congressman volunteered: "A friend of mine told me once that he dropped three tenpenny nails into one of the cola bottles, and in forty-eight hours the nails had completely dissolved." Sure," the doctor answered. "Phosphoric acid there would dissolve iron or limestone. You might drop it on the steps, and it would erode the steps coining up here.... Try it."

Eric Schlosser
Fast Food Nation

"In one of the most despicable marketing gambits," Michael Jacobson, the author of "Liquid Candy" reports, "Pepsi, Dr Pepper and Seven-Up encourage feeding soft drinks to babies by licensing their logos to a major maker of baby bottles, Munchkin Bottling, Inc." A 1997 study published in the Journal of Dentistry for Children found that many infants were indeed being fed soda in those bottles."

Greg Critser
Fat Land : How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World

"The soft drink industry alone spends upward of $600 million annually to promote its trash (compared with the National Cancer Institute's paltry $1 million budget for promoting fruit and vegetable consumption), such promotional campaigns can be highly effective"

Richard Brodie
Virus of the Mind:: The New Science of the Meme

"In psychology, the word conditioning often refers to implanting association-memes. When the Coca-Cola Bottling Company pays millions of dollars to show you young people in bathing suits having a good time drinking their products, they are conditioning you to associate good feelings with their brands."

"Another effect of meme evolution on advertising is the divergence of advertising content from product content. I remember noticing, as a kid, the Coca-Cola Company changing its slogan from "Drink Coca-Cola" to "Enjoy Coca -Cola "to "Things Go Better with Coke." Somewhere along the line, somebody realized that they didn't really have to discuss the product itself, just create a mood full of enough attractive elements that people took notice and felt good when they saw the product -- they created an association-meme in the customer. A recent Diet Pepsi campaign featured celebrities and showgirls smiling, cavorting, and grunting "uh-huh!" for half a minute. Not exactly a logical delineation of the product's features and benefits."

John Robbins
"The Food Revolution: How Your Diet Can Help Save Your Life and Our World"

"Coca-Cola and other soft drink companies are giving millions of dollars to cash-strapped school districts in return for exclusive rights to sell their products in schools. In one such deal, a school district in Colorado actually requires teachers to push Coca-Cola consumption in classrooms whenever sales fall below contractual obligations."

Earl Mindell PhD and Virginia Hopkins MA
Earl Mindell's New Vitamin Bible

"There's a good chance that one of the leading contributors to osteoporosis in the U.S. is carbonated soft drinks containing phosphorus. Research has shown a direct link between too much phosphorus and calcium loss."

H J Roberts MD
Aspartame (Nutrasweet): Is It Safe?

"Many TV commercials featuring household-name stars are targeted to child viewers. A major manufacturer of aspartame-containing soft drinks has already taken aim at children watching Saturday morning television, known as the "moppet market" (The Wall Street Journal December 9, 1988, p.B-1). Producers had previously avoided such targeting due to concern over the unique vulnerability of children, and the possible exacerbation of obesity among sedentary young video viewers."

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About the author: Mike Adams is a consumer health advocate and award-winning journalist with a passion for teaching people how to improve their health He has authored more than 1,800 articles and dozens of reports, guides and interviews on natural health topics, and he has created several downloadable courses on survival and preparedness, including his widely-downloaded course on personal safety and self-defense. Adams is an honest, independent journalist and accepts no money or commissions on the third-party products he writes about or the companies he promotes. In 2010, Adams created, a natural living video sharing site featuring thousands of user videos on foods, fitness, green living and more. He also launched an online retailer of environmentally-friendly products ( and uses a portion of its profits to help fund non-profit endeavors. He's also a noted pioneer in the email marketing software industry, having been the first to launch an HTML email newsletter technology that has grown to become a standard in the industry. Adams volunteers his time to serve as the executive director of the Consumer Wellness Center, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, and regularly pursues cycling, nature photography, Capoeira and Pilates.

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Related Articles:

The unauthorized history of Coca-Cola (satire)

Coca-Cola's murderous record of anti-union activity in Colombia exposed

To this day, Coca-Cola still imports coca leaves which are used to manufacture cocaine in the United States

London Assembly trying to ban McDonald's, Coca-Cola from 2012 Olympics

Coca-Cola jumps on green tea bandwagon, launches Enviga beverage with negative calorie claims

Human rights alert: Coca-Cola suppliers buy materials from El Salvador companies that practice child labor

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