“Ads as Stories” is a series devoted to analyzing different advertising campaigns as acts of storytelling, and breaking down the narrative being told.

This week, we’re going to take a look at the most recent major campaign of the greatest advertised brand in the world: Coca Cola. Coke, as a company, has always been a mountain of advertising genius. That’s because they understand that they are never selling a carbonated drink, their selling an idea. At the start of the 2010’s, the entire soda industry was in decline. It had been a couple years since sales had risen, and Coke was definitely reclining, as well. They needed a way to turn it around, and the solution was the creation of the most brilliantly simple ad campaign in years: “Share a Coke.”

How it started

“Share a Coke” is the first case of debranding, the act of removing your brand from your product, that we’ve seen in this series. The way in which it was done was quite unique. The general gist of the campaign was that customers would find names and relationship titles on a bottle, instead of the Coke label. They could also create their own bottles online. The campaign started in Australia in 2011, as a way to reach out to young adults and try to get them to start buying Coke again. Eventually, after success there, it grew to other major countries in 2013. One of the big pushes of the campaign was to use the hashtag #shareacoke to encourage social media participation.

The story

This campaign was a deceptively simple way to establish the longstanding message that Coke tries to imbue in all of their advertising, and that is that Coke isn’t a drink, but the feeling of love, friendship, and community. The “Share a Coke” campaign accomplished the daring act of making Coke a personal statement. It sought to build community around a product by using the idea of sharing. While the campaign was quite simple, it was also incredibly effective…


While all other soda sales were on the decline, Coke actually began to grow. In fact, it grew by a whopping 2%! While that may not sound like anything drastic, remember that that number is enormous for a company that is as large as Coca Cola, which is one of the most profitable companies in the world and already has a gigantic market share.