Coca-Cola pulls apart its iconic red-and-white logo to encourage recycling

The famous wordmark is distorted and destroyed in an eye-grabbed new ad campaign led by WPP Open X.

It’s one of the most famous wordmarks of all time and has remained broadly unchanged since 1941. So Coca-Cola doesn’t mess with its logo lightly, which means that for graphic designers in particular, the brand’s new global out-of-home advertising campaign is an intriguing sight.

In an innovative effort to encourage more recycling, the campaign depicts the Coke logo as crushed and distorted, mimicking how it would appear on a recycled aluminium can.

Titled ‘Recycle Me’, the campaign debuted this month in Latin America. It aims to motivate consumers to recycle their empty Coke cans and bottles by tapping into the incredible brand recognition of the red-and-white logo – which research shows is recognised by 94% of the world’s population.

Analogue authenticity

And here’s something else that grabbed our attention. While it might have seemed the easy option would be to manipulate the logo digitally, Ogilvy instead went the analogue route. The ‘Recycle Me’ assets were painstakingly created by crushing actual Coke cans using techniques such as mechanical presses and vacuums.

Each outdoor advertisement features a truly one-of-a-kind, crumpled logo extracted from the crushed cans. A film documenting the process will launch later this month.

That all might seem like a lot of extra effort. But ultimately viewers are going to pick up on that sense of grounded authenticity – albeit subliminally – and it makes for a far more effective ad overall.

Brand mission

And that’s important, because despite the centuries-spanning success of the brand, they do have a bit of an image problem, being the symbol in many people’s minds of out-of-control consumerism and rapacious capitalism. And so a renewed mission to help save the planet makes sense both ethically and commercially.

“At Coca-Cola, we aim to have a world without waste,” said Islam ElDessouky, global vice president of creative strategy and content at Coca-Cola on the ad’s launch. “We have a unique opportunity to use our marketing to send a powerful message and bring consumers along our sustainability journey.”

Admittedly, Coke is not saying anything particularly radical here: the idea of recycling your Coke can has been around for at least 40 years now. But hey, you have to start somewhere. And given the homogeneity of Coke ads in general, which generally focus on the taste of the drink and/or how it brings smiling, happy people together, it’s still a significant move.

More broadly, the campaign supports Coca-Cola’s ambitious ‘World Without Waste’ goals to make all packaging 100% recyclable by 2025 and to collect and recycle the equivalent of every bottle and can sold by 2030.

‘Recycle Me’ was developed by WPP Open X, led by Ogilvy New York
and supported by Ogilvy PR. It’s rolling out on billboards, transit shelters, and digital displays across Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico, and it is complemented by print and social media ads.

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