The History of the World’s Most Recognized Brand: Coca Cola

This article was written by Samuel Phineas Upham

Coca Cola is one of the world’s most widely recognized brands. It’s sold everywhere, from supermarkets to vending machines stationed in rural parts of the world. The company also operates one of the largest marketing budgets of any modern corporation, focusing heavily on branding using iconic properties like its red can design and logo.

Coca Cola was originally conceived after the Civil War. Colonel John Pemberton was one of many who sustained wounds during the conflict, but his left him with a severe addiction to morphine. He created something of a nerve tonic, perhaps inspired by the popular drink coca wine, to try and circumvent his usage of morphine. Pemberton’s version was non-alcoholic, which he sold for five cents per glass from soda fountains.

Pemberton was something of a snake oil salesman, claiming that his drink could cure morphine addiction and dyspepsia (among others). Like most popular products, knock-offs soon hit the market. No less than three, to be precise. Pemberton attempted to patent the formula, but the closest he got was the trademark name “Coca-Cola.”

Pemberton granted rights to use the logo to his son, Charley, who began to produce a low-quality drink based on his father’s formula. The Coca-Cola Company had a bitter patent dispute with some of its rivals, even attempting to run them out of business on more than one occasion. The dispute, complicated by the death of Dr. Pemberton, was resolved in 1930 when Asa Candler became the sole proprietor of Coca-Cola and its assets. Rumor has it that Candler bought the title from Pemberton’s wife at his funeral for $300.

Samuel Phineas Upham

About the Author: Samuel Phineas Upham is an investor at a family office/hedgefund, where he focuses on special situation illiquid investing. Before this position, Samuel Phineas Upham was working at Morgan Stanley in the Media & Technology group. You may contact Samuel Phineas Upham on his Facebook page.