It’s one of the most memorable logos in the world. You see just a glimpse of the product and know it’s a Coke thanks to that highly recognizable shade of red. But why did the company chose this shade in the first place?
Some fans think the red color came from some of the company’s first nationwide advertisements, which featured the now-iconic Christmas Santa Claus wearing a classic red and white suit, holding a bottle of Coke. But Santa didn’t begin popping up in Coca-Cola ads until the 1920s, and by that time the brand was nearly 40 years old.
“It goes all the way back to the beginning,” said Coca-Cola Archivist Ted Ryan.
The real story of Coke’s color red is essentially one of a happy accident.
More than 130 years ago, Coca-Cola was distributed in large barrels at drug stores and pharmacies all across America. Alcohol was distributed the same way, which led to some confusion. Additionally, since alcohol was taxed, but soft drinks were not, Coca-Cola wanted to differentiate their product.
The Coca-Cola Company began painting its soda barrels with the bright red color to help people pick them out from the barrels of booze.
According to the brand, “from the mid-1900s, we began painting our barrels red so that tax agents could distinguish them from alcohol during transport.”
The shade they used is still around today.
“You see a red disc icon on a storefront, and you know that you’ll be able to get delicious, ice-cold Coca-Cola there,” Ryan said. “It became a promise in a way.”
Coke’s famous shade of red isn’t available in Pantone or any other color registry — it’s a combination of three different shades of red totally unique to the brand. The now iconic script text, however, is an official font called “Spencerian.” The font has been associated with the Coca-Cola brand since the 1900s.
The Coke bottle, called the “Coutour,” is another part of the highly recognizable Coca-Cola packaging. The shape has remained unchanged since 1899. What has changed is the Coke can. Created in 1945 to supply World War II soldiers around the world with the product, the size has stayed the same, but the design has changed through the decades.