Thursday, April 28, 2011
(BOOKS) The Coke Machine: The Dirty Truth Behind The World's Favorite Soft Drink by Michael Blanding
The most important thing to Coca-Cola, the thing that they value, treasure, and will do anything to protect, is its image. It's brand. Coke is about peace, and love, and harmony, and family. At least that's the image they've been sending out to the world for a century.
The book, The Coke Machine, by Michael Blanding, looks deeper into Coke's practices, especially its International market, and it paints quite a different picture of Coke. The book is carefully researched, and has over 60 pages of notes at the end, along with an extensive bibliography list. So we know Blanding isn't talking out of his ass.
A lot of the stuff inside the book isn't necessarily new, or surprising. Multinationals are everywhere, and they exist to make money. Sometimes, no matter what, as they have to answer first and foremost to their stock/share holders. It's not shocking that they would "look" the other way if something seems amiss somewhere else. If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?
Yes, yes it does.
I like the structure of the book as it begins with Coke's history then jumps into its branding (utmost of importance) and then into the darkness of its bottling companies in South America and its factories in India. Murder comes to its union workers in Colombia, and water shortage to India (among other things). Coke is smart though, it makes sure to not own a majority share in its international bottlers, so they can claim ignorance and distance. But when hard working people are treated like cattle and abused and want to unionize in those conditions then Coke shouldn't pretend not to notice. And they shouldn't try to give away run off/contaminated waste to Indian farmers as fertilizer, killing its crops and cattle. Just some of the things that Blanding brings to light.
I don't drink much Coke, as I prefer Pepsi if I have a craving. (I drink maybe a can a week of pop, which at 52 cans a year sounds really high to me, time for a change) But I do enjoy Cherry Coke, but am finding it too sweet. Dr Pepper is my ultimate choice, if I want to walk on the wild side. But alas, I'm sure they have issues as well. But not as big as Coke because Coke is huge in the world. It's everywhere. It's so inundated in our culture that people collect memorabilia, and go to conventions, spending thousands of dollars on knick knacks and crap. It's part of our childhoods. It has the iconic Santa Claus to make us feel warm and cuddly. It has the CGI polar bears to appeal to children. If anything, I think this book forces us to be aware of advertising, and its manipulative nature.
I think it's important to be a conscious consumer, it doesn't mean you have to boycott everything out there. I am not boycotting Coke, but I am definitely thinking twice about its product and its brand (all brands). (damn that song, I'd like to buy a world a coke/I'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony, because although the words are nice and get into our hearts, it's complete bullshit at the end of the day)
The Coke Machine is worth a read. Educate yourself then make the right decision for you, whatever that may be.