How Many People Know Coke's "Secret Formula"?

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Coke has a new ad that declares that only two people know Coke’s secret formula, and if something happened to one of them, the formula would be lost forever. It then goes on to talk, facetiously, about all the terrible things that would happen to the world if something bad happened to one of the two men and the formula was lost forever.

Perhaps I’m just losing my sense of humor, but every time I see the ad I get aggravated.

First, and this is not so important; if two people know the formula, then if something happened to one of them, the formula would not be lost. So what they don’t say, but must
mean, is that there are two people who each know half the formula, and nobody who knows the whole formula.

More fundamentally, there is no way in the world that only two people know Coke’s secret formula. If that were really the case, then the shareholders should be filing suit against management. Are firms allowed to just blatantly lie in their advertising? Not that it matters, but I find it strange that a firm would knowingly say something like this when it is completely untrue.

(As an aside, the question of how much Pepsi would pay to get Coke’s secret formula has a surprising answer.)

Coke isn’t the only company lying these days. I was on an airplane the other day, and printed in capital letters on the headset the airline provided in the seat pocket in front of me were the words “OPERATES ONLY ON AIRCRAFT. PLEASE DO NOT REMOVE.” It’s not hard to figure out that statement is not true. One look at the plug would tell you. Or if you wanted more concrete evidence, you could stick it into an iPod, perhaps even in that critical takeoff and landing period when all electronics must be turned
off
, and prove that it works.

They are not the best headphones in the world, but at least sound comes out of both ears (which is more than I can say about the next best pair of headphones in my possession); so until I return them on my next flight, they will just have to do.


jimmyc

When have you seen Coke products at a peace summitt? I haven't. It must be the missing ingredient, if we are to believe the commercial and gloriously join in celebration and unite.

keith

I don't know if it's true or apocryphal, but in the olden days, Colonel Saunders would have different vendors grind portions of the herbs and spices; then he'd have partial blends mixed to a predetermined ratio to form the total spice mix.

If you want to make your own cola flavor, here are the components of the backbone: a citrus juice, vanilla, and cinnamon.

AnalystOne

The Coke claim is, indeed, false. Perhaps two people have it comitted partially to memory. However, the actual formula lies in the vault of SunTrust Bank in Atlanta, GA.

The inadequate explaination likely falls on the shoulders of Wieden & Kennedy Portland (the ad agency behind the commercial)--and it irked me at first viewing as well.

KB

So, is this you trying to defend stealing ear phones?

the Gooch

Haven't we established in other posts that lies can be very persuasive and therefore useful to prevent, say, theft of airline headphones?

Morley

First of all, knee problems are aggravated. People get annoyed.

Secondly, its an ad. Its meant to be whimsical, not factual. Just like you can't cut open an apple and see the insides of an orange. If Harper Collins shareholders found out that you could, they'd sue you for not commercializing it.

CubNuts

Take a chill pill. This is just like the Bush's baked beans commercials where the family dog tries to sell the secret recipe. It's not like Coke expects us to really believe that only 2 people know the formula.

Walter Wimberly

The ad probably falls under the same guidelines as the Pepsi Jet ad (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leonard_v._Pepsico,_Inc.) Where "no reasonable person" would believe it - thus it is a joke. (although in this case - an unfunny joke)

JonF

It's possible that only two people actually "know" the formula, but they can't lose it. The physical formula is stored in the vault at a SunTrust branch in Atlanta.

Eric M. Jones

Pepsi Cola is an anagram of Episcopal, and there is good reason to believe there is a connection. But I digress....

I seriously doubt the formula for Coke is very important. Who would buy it? BTW--the REAL Coke as produced in Mexico and other places uses cane sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup (introduced in the 1980's in the US), and has a distinctly sharper taste.

Coke and Pepsi are both blends of kola nut extract, vanilla, and differ mostly because essence of orange is used in Coke and essence of lemon is used in Pepsi. So Pepsi already knows how to make Cokes.

There really are very few product secrets in the world. If you put a product on the commercial market, your secrets are displayed for all to see.

Companies Lying??? American Express--"No preset spending limit?" ...Hah.

James V

As long as it remains a delicious companion to pizzas, cheeseburgers, burritos, etc. I don't care if the Coke recipe is split up between 20 well paid mutes, who must annually disperse the recipe to 1,024 bit encrypted supercomputers by performing the Vulcan Mind Meld in front of Obi Wan Kenobi through a USB port.

Ezzie

If you watch the ad closely, it basically says that each guy has half the formula, and then notes at the end that "don't worry, it's safe", showing a vault. Which is a nice way of saying what's actually true: Two people together know it, and were there no other record of it, it would be potentially dangerous (to Coke, and therefore my sanity as an addict). But even if they get knocked off, they have a copy in a vault, so we can all feel better.

Ryan

Dude, buy a Tivo. Thirty second skip is your friend.

econobiker

#5 Gooch,

There are now converter plugs sold to be able to use regular ear phones in the plane plugs...

Ryan Hass

I recall a computer science colloquium at my undergrad where a consultant was talking about coke's orange juice production. He stated minute maid orange juice's formula is only known by a small number of people, and no single person knows the whole formula. The consultant had been hired to remove the dependancy on the few people who knew parts of the formula. It turns out that many of the people who did know the formula were getting close to retirement.

The consultant determined the only solution required the formula being stored in a single place on a computer.

The management didn't like the risk of having the entire formula located in one place. So they paid the consultant, didn't implement his solution, and found understudies for each person that knew a portion of the formula.

Bas

I see it more as a fairy tale or myth.

I wouldn't be lying to a child if I say that "once upon a time" there was something that has never existed "once upon a time".

Nate

The company line is that only two individuals at a time know the secret formula but the formula is also kept in a vault that can only be opened by vote of the Coke board of directors.

kevin

This is why Economists don't do marketing and advertising.

mt

what about those exit signs that say "alarm will sound when door is opened"?

Joseph

I'm a Coke drinker (Diet Coke, actually) but I've always found Coke ads pretentious-- even borderline offensive. All the love humanity and world peace stuff, the anthropomorphizing of animals (polar bears love Coke?)-- it's just soda, that's all.

They may only be commercials and not meant to be taken seriously, but Coke sure takes itself seriously-- a little too seriously, IMHO.