FDL Book Salon Welcomes Mark Pendergrast, For God, Country and Coca-Cola: The Definitive History of the Great American Soft Drink and the Company That Makes It
Everywhere you go there is Coca-Cola.
On one hand, there’s comfort in seeing something familiar along the backroads of Thailand, but on the other it can piss you off to see the massive white and red logo and realize just how far Coca-Cola has infiltrated global society.
As traditional marketing and advertising concepts are buried by the demands of a Facebook culture that seeks a personal relationship with the brands they consume, Mark Pendergrast’s book, For God, Country and Coca Cola is more relevant today than it was when it was first published in 1993.
After more than 100 years of pioneering the concept of mass marketing and advertising, even a brand as big as Coca-Cola is having to change the way it sells itself to the world. And one thing that is clear in Pendergrast’s book is that we are not drinking a sugary water, but a brand and an idea of what the good life should be.
Love it or hate it, Coca-Cola is a big part of American modern history. And it is a very interesting history at that. Starting with the snake-oil salesman and medicinal shysters in the late 1800’s that pioneered mass advertising, to the New Coke “catastrophe” of the mid-80’s, and on to the global expansion of the brown sugar water that you can buy in Shanghai as easily as you can in Manhattan.
Pendergrast doesn’t jam a message or lesson down your throat in his book, which is hard to do when dealing with a brand that elicits a lot of emotion, good or bad, in people. Given how ingrained Coca-Cola is in our history and our psyche, I guess it would be a bit of a fool’s game for Pendergrast to even try to shape our opinions.
When I asked Pendergrast to describe to me what the main message of For God, Country and Coca Cola was, he told me:
The Coke history offered me a way to look at many issues that impact our lives — not just mass marketing and advertising, but issues of public health, the environment, world culture and globalization, management and business development (corporate culture), social responsibility, impact of boycotts, psychology, hoaxes, the civil rights movement and race relations, psychoactive drugs, epidemiology, economics, and just plain good old stories — terrific narrative storytelling opportunities, with great characters, and a way to look at American history from its modern inception in the 1880s.
It’s the U.S., and to an extent, the world seen through Coke bottle glasses.