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Coca Cola is arguably the biggest company on the planet, created in May 1886 in Atlanta, USA by Dr John S Pemberton it has remained true to Pembertons original vision for the last 127 years. The Coca Cola brand is so recognizable that it is the second most commonly understood word on earth behind OK, a true testament to its success.

The design of the product is iconic, with multiple features all coming together in a neat package. The logo was created by Frank M Robinson, Pemberton's friend and business partner, who came up with the name Coca Cola and wrote it out by hand in the Spencerian script that has remained unchanged as the Coca Cola brand logo. The famous Coca Cola contoured bottle was designed by the Root Glass Company of Indiana in 1915, it was designed to be innovative and recognizable in the dark or if broken; it is also suggested that the shape was inspired by the form of a woman's body. The bottle later received a rare distinction for packaging when, in 1977, it was granted registration as a trademark by the United States Patent Office. In addition to the logo and bottle designs the use of Coca Cola red (Figure 1) has developed brand recognition and maintains traditional style within coca cola products. It is so iconic that when the company chose to use red text on white cans during the festive season of 2011, confusion amongst consumers ensued [1]. The issue of colour constancy and quality control is therefore an extremely important part of the Coca Cola business model; factors such as total appearance and colour specification need to be considered to ensure quality.

NCS Colour Notation 1085 Y90R Munsell Colour Notation 7.5R 4/16 (Visual Assessments at D6510)

Figure 1

Figure 1: Coke Red, http://thecolourdiaries.wordpress.com/2010/04/30/colour-of-the-day-no-2-coke-red/

The appearance properties of Coca Cola

The Coca Cola brand is globally recognized for its distinctive taste and appearance. The design of the packaging utilizes several substrates including aluminium, glass and polyethylene terephthalate in addition to a plastic label called shrink sleeve labels that can be made from PVC, PETG, OPP, PLA or EPS foam. This mixture of materials provides challenges in creating a consistent colour palette across substrates and in different environments.

Coca Cola no longer use a Pantone colour code for the traditional Red, they state that all major paint stores should have it computerized [2]. By using a visual assessment in D6510 conditions in comparison to both NCS and Munsell colour order systems, a similar colour can be found with relative ease, these notations are shown in figure 1. The products tend to have a level of specular gloss, a smooth lightly speckled texture, typically translucent substrates (bottles and glass) and colour printing on the packaging or the subject itself. These elements can affect the total appearance of Coca Cola products.

The perform ance requirem ents of Coca Cola

Each Coca Cola product from Coke, Diet Coke to Coke Zero requires a scrutinous screening process to maintain expected standards of product quality. Each product within the Coca Cola Company needs to keep consistency and quality across similar types of product type to minimize the impact of imperfections in the production of the same design across multiple substrates. The Coke red has an acceptable level of light fastness (around LF 4-7), water fastness, weather fastness and chemical resistance. Issues such as blooming, bleeding and migration can be considerable issues concerning the packaging of Coca Colas products.

Q uantifying colour difference

A method of determining the consistency across the Coca Cola product range is to test trial samples against a standard in a controlled environment under a standard illuminant. There are multiple methods for testing the colour consistency of a single or variety of product ranges; these can include spectrophotometers, spectroradiometers or colorimeters. All of these examples have both strengths and weaknesses but the data shown in figures 2 - 5 were collected from a spectrophotometer.

Specular Included - Figure 2

L* Coca Cola Diet Coke Coke Zero 47.87 47.68 45.66

a* 56.87 57.20 53.86

b* 34.62 31.37 30.19

C* 66.58 65.24 61.74

h 31.34 28.75 29.28

Specular Excluded - Figure 3

L* Coca Cola Diet Coke Coke Zero 42.30 42.22 39.48

a* 65.07 65.02 60.62

b* 52.84 45.05 41.84

C* 83.82 79.10 73.66

h 39.08 34.73 34.63

(All data was gathered at a standard of D6510)

Figures 2 and 3 shows data on the Lab and LCh values from 3 samples, Coke, Diet Coke and Coke Zero. L* represents lightness/darkness, a* redness/greenness, b* yellowness/blueness, C* chromaticness and h the hue angle; figures 2 and 3 include and exclude specular gloss consideration respectively. This data provides a large amount of information on the appearance of a sample and these statistics can be used to determine the differences in total appearance between products in each category, figures 4 and 5 show the differences between substrates.

Specular Included - Figure 4

L* Coca Cola (Std.) Diet Coke (A) Coke Zero (B) 47.99 -0.07 -2.65

a* 57.10 -0.62 -4.38

b* 34.95 -6.92 -5.94

C* 66.95 -3.90 -6.78

h 31.48 -5.75 -2.91

E x 6.95 7.84

Specular Excluded - Figure 5

L* Coca Cola (Std.) Diet Coke (A) Coke Zero (B) 41.32 1.48 -1.40

a* 65.42 -1.08 -4.55

b* 56.28 -16.04 -14.28

C* 86.30 -10.41 -12.35

h 40.71 -12.25 -8.49

E x 16.14 15.05

(Coca Cola is the standard. All data was gathered at a standard of D6510)

Any incremental change in value of greater than plus or minus 0.50 is considered to be a noticeable change. In this set of data it is clearly observable that b*, C* and h have considerable changes in value for both trial A and B especially. The E value gives a numeric value for the total visual difference from the standard, in this data specular excluded values are over twice as noticeable as specular included, although both have a noticeable change. This data proves that there are issues in colour constancy across the coca cola product range and the value of measuring and specifying colour standards to reduce colour shift and transgression.

Q uality control procedures

To reduce the impact of these appearance issues an element of quality control must be ensured. These can vary across the different viewpoints of multiple parties. From a designers viewpoint care must be taken in the selection of hues and mediums to ensure cohesion is possible. Material suppliers need to be efficient and reduce the amount of anomalies with light and water fastness so as to not create issues in production. Likewise producers need to stick to a standard set by coca cola for complete design fulfillment. The vendor must ensure the product is displayed undamaged and away from deterioration such as direct sunlight and

water to avoid colour shift. Finally the end-user will want to keep the product away from sources of deterioration similarly to the vendor.


The Coca Cola product range has to regularly specify and measure the standard of colour across its product range, this is to ensure it maintains its heritage and its popularity. The success of the product depends upon the quality of its total appearance, and this includes the substrate, gloss, texture and most importantly hue. Minimizing the E values is important in ensuring that coke red thrives, this enables the brand to be coherent. The specification and measurement of the Coca Cola brand is, therefore, a considerably important element in controlling total appearance.

W ord Count: 1057

Reference List

[1] Munsell color, branding for corporate identity. Accessed from: http://munsell.com/color-blog/color-branding-corporate-identity-branding/ [2] Colour of the day, the colour diaries. Accessed from: http://thecolourdiaries.wordpress.com/page/4/

Figure 1: Colour of the day, the colour diaries. Accessed from: http://thecolourdiaries.wordpress.com/page/4/

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