Reintroductions

lg_cocacola_can-1207171They say that Coca-Cola is the world’s most recognizable brand. No matter  where you go in the world, chances are that you can get the familiar caramel-colored fizzy drink. Coke is everywhere.

Coke doesn’t taste the same in every country, though. They adjust the flavor based on local tastes. In Europe, the cola is less sweet than its American counterpart. In Thailand, from what I understand, it’s much sweeter and less fizzy. The one thing that keeps the soft drink recognizable around the world is the familiar red label.

Well, mostly red. Years of market research and competition with Pepsi (and about a hundred others) had led the makers of Coke (I’m thinking these were committee decisions) to gradually change the packaging. The idea was probably to make the brand appear “hip” and “cool.” They added swooshes and swirls, bubbles, gradients, coupons, and sports logos. Soon, the can blended in with all the other soft drinks and energy drinks vying for the consumer’s attention.

Last summer, Coke got back to the basics. They reintroduced the familiar red can. Solid red with white lettering and the “dynamic ribbon” graphic they’ve used since 1969. The change finally made it to Western Europe last month. I recently read an interview of The Coca-Cola Company’s European President. When asked about the change, he replied, “We’re Coke. We’ve been around forever. We’re not fooling anyone with flashy graphics. We’re proud of our product, and the new (0ld) look represents that.”

Consumers raved over the return to the classic look. They are finding beauty in the simplicity, and the value in the recognition of the brand’s heritage.

Of course, there’s a lesson to be learned here. Whenever we talk about contextualization of Christianity, some people assume we mean dressing it up to look like the culture. We don’t. We mean giving people the essential ingredients of the faith, and allowing them to prayerfully determine the formula. The packaging doesn’t really matter so much.

But what we’re finding is that Christianity, like Coke, has been around a while. Not everyone is a fan, but most have had a taste if it. We’re not introducing the gospel, we’re reintroducing it. This means that there’s a long history to acknowledge. The challenge is to identify with our heritage in a way that allows us to overcome our failures.

Remember “New Coke?”