Why we should care about Coca-Cola’s new font

Coca-Cola’s global ‘One Brand’ strategy now includes a custom typeface. Uberbrand's art director Chantel de Sylva unpacks the meaning behind it all.

Times change, so do people’s taste buds. But brands like Coca-Cola is still loved by both young and old – after 130 years – thanks to its ability to keep up with change and still connect with its consumers.

In late 2016, the superbrand rolled out its global One Brand strategy which stated its intention to unify all Coca-Cola sub-brands under one iconic design. Commonly referred to as the red disc, the strong graphic image of white script on a bright red background, became instantly recognisable and a Coca-Cola iconography.

On Monday, Coca-Cola’s VP of global design, James Sommerville, announced the launch of its own custom typeface known as TCCC Unity.

First impressions count

Whilst Coca-Cola’s campaigns have evolved over the years, their core brand assets haven’t changed much since the beginning. Coca-Cola’s strategy is simple: spend the time and money getting the visual identity right from the start and spend years applying their assets consistently to leave a memorable impression of their brand.

Take the red for instance. They didn’t just choose it randomly – it’s a colour that is synonymous with joy and refreshment (it’s no coincidence that all major fast food joints use red in their logo). In 1931, Coca-Cola started to feature Santa Claus in their advertising (along with their iconic hourglass bottle), and so the Coca-Cola red became associated with the jolly good fellow who brings joy to everyone around the world – which is reflective of the principle that Coke brings joy.

More than just a font

A typeface holds as much value as a brand colour. It’s a powerful asset that is often overlooked. We know that great branding is more than just a logo. So if you were to strip away your logo and colours, your typeface is pretty much all that’s left to carry your message and vision.

A typeface has its own character and should be used as an opportunity to reflect your company’s personality traits and values. The people at Coca-Cola know this. Which is why they’ve invested the time and money in Neville Brody (one of the most iconic designers and typographers in recent history) to create a unique font for their iconic brand.

Brody and his team spent three days locked in the company’s archive room soaking up every aspect of its past. According to Coca-Cola, TCCC Unity epitomises its “American Modernist heritage”. To me – as an art director – the subtle flicks in the As and the roundness of the Os reflect the life and energy of the brand.

And whilst these nuances may be lost on some eyes, the overall feeling is nostalgic yet modern – and over time the font, like the red disc, will be distinctive to Coca-Cola. Not only are these properties unique to Coca-Cola, it’s also a way of leaving a memorable impression on consumers without being ‘in your face.’

Consistency is key

Another reason behind the creation of a new font is the functional benefit of consistency. Going back to the core of its ‘One Brand’ strategy, Coca-Cola foresaw the irony of harping on the subject of unity if they were to use different fonts across different assets.

It is unfortunate that many brands view typography as a cost-drainer instead of an opportunity to trigger brand recognition recall.

Take another superbrand, Apple, for example. The tech brand didn’t spend a cent to use Myriad as their official font. Applied with tenacity and consistency, the once run of the mill font, is now known as ‘The Apple Font’.

Invest in your identity

Superbrands don’t become superbrands overnight. Brand recognition cannot be achieved with the snap of your fingers. It is built over time with the consistent use of core brand assets. From your choice of typeface to colour palette, photography style to tone of voice, they make up your brand identity and reflects on your brand values. Sometimes a simple icon is equivalent to a thousand words – that alone can launch ships.

So the next time you think to overlook visual identity, think again. It’s worth investing in and sticking with to make way for a successful brand.

Chantel de Sylva is Uberbrand’s art director.


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