NEW YORK; JANUARY 27, 2016 — Coca-Cola’s new “Taste the Feeling” ad campaign “will be focused more on the functional and emotional benefits of Coke the product” rather than the loftier brand equity-rooted celebration of the brand’s “role as a social facilitator and symbol of peace, love, friendship and brotherhood” of the prior “Open Happiness” campaign.

That’s Stuart Elliott’s take in his MediaVillage column this morning. Elliott wrote The New York Times advertising column for 23 years, and has been contributing to Jack Myers’ MediaVillage for just under a year (and it’s great to have his voice back!).

Coke bottle cap tray

One of my favorite licensed Coke products, from Coolgear.

From a licensing perspective, the question is how that new theme will manifest itself in merchandise, and while not mentioning licensing per se, Elliott indirectly addresses the key to a sound licensing program as well as a good ad campaign: emotional resonance.

Elliott wonders “if ads that play up what’s inside the bottle will overlook the specialness of the bottle and the other unique qualities and attributes of Coca-Cola that have contributed to its status as perhaps the world’s best-known (and most-liked) brand. . . . A thirst quencher, yes, but also an intrinsic element of American popular culture and a symbol of American life.”

Licensed Coke products reflect that, and Elliott couldn’t do better than singling out, as he does, the shape of the bottle, vintage ads, the Coca-Cola Santa, and other advertising slogans, as well as songs and movies where Coke has played a starring role. Not to mention the polar bears.

As I told the students in my Branding & Licensing class at LIU Post this week (part of a Branding & Licensing minor inaugurated by the university with LIMA and Beanstalk’s Michael Stone last semester), Coke’s is a classic case study in how licensing can support a core brand. Relative to revenue, licensing is a rounding error at Coke, albeit a highly profitable one. With licensing under the guidance of Kate Dwyer in Atlanta for almost seven years now, Coke tastes that feeling just fine.

Ira Mayer, former publisher and executive editor of The Licensing Letter, conducts competitive research and consults for companies in the licensing business; you can contact him by clicking on the “Contact” button above left.