Coca-Cola doesn’t promise to keep you thin

I was talking to a reporter about the so-called Coca-Cola “weight washing” announcements last week and it got me thinking about a broader issue. We all have ideas on what promises organisations should be making, but that isn’t our job.

Coca-Cola doesn’t promise to keep you thin. They do promise to “refresh the world and to inspire moments of optimism and happiness…”. And unless you are an executive at Coca-Cola (or at McDonald’s or any of the other corporates that find themselves in the firing line of health and other well-meaning advocates), your job is to either buy that promise or not.

To be clear, I don’t drink soft drinks of any kind and haven’t for over a decade. In effect, I have decided not to buy their promise that caffeine, sugar and water equals having a good time with my friends.

And that’s my choice to make. It’s not my job to try and tell Coca-Cola what they should or shouldn’t be putting in their products. But in this world of “stakeholder” activism run amok the lines appear to have blurred.

If you are so sure that Coca-Cola should be made with a lot less sugar then off you go, roll the dice and try your hand in the marketplace with that formula, or don’t buy that promise. Buy a different promise. Or drink tap water.

I will always defend an organisation’s right to make and keep whatever promises they decide to. And I will also defend the right of the customer to buy those promises or not.

And if enough people don’t buy the promise then the organisation will either pay attention and start making different promises or go out of business. That’s the way it works (okay, it’s a bit more complex than that, but you get the point). That’s the way we “tell” corporations what we want – by the promises that we choose to buy.

So what promises are you making and how are you keeping them?

See you next week.

Michel is an independent brand analyst dedicated to helping organisations make promises they can keep and keep the promises they make – with a strong, resilient organisation as the result. She also publishes a blog at


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