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Why Coca-Cola is unveiling new, patriotic cans

Coca-Cola released a new patriotic design ahead of Memorial Day. It's a good way to show appreciation for US service members – and a savvy marketing tactic.

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    Coca Cola's limited new “I’m proud to be an America” edition commemorates Coca-Cola’s 75-year partnership with the United Service Organizations (USO), which provides entertainment and aid to service members while overseas.
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Coca-Cola is launching a limited-edition red, white, and blue can for Memorial Day. 

The company’s new design – dubbed the “I’m proud to be an America” edition – commemorates Coca-Cola’s 75-year partnership with the United Service Organizations (USO), which provides entertainment and aid to service members while overseas. When a service member visits one of the 180 USO locations (in countries such as Afghanistan, Kuwait, Iraq, and South Korea) he or she can have a meal, call a loved one, or relax while watching a movie.

“Since the organization’s very beginning in 1941, the USO has been near and dear to us,” said Erika von Heiland Strader, director of community marketing at Coca-Cola North America, in a press release Wednesday. “The patriotic graphics on special 16 oz. cans and multiple club packs are a small way of saying thanks to the USO for all they do.” 

The redesign is also part of the Coca-Cola’s Campaign to Connect project, a joint effort between Coca-Cola and USO to send one million messages of support to the nation’s military service members.

As of Sunday, 220,327 messages had been sent.

Campaign to Connect is in response to a recent survey which found that 90 percent of all service men and women believe that the US public does not understand the sacrifices they make for the country. The survey also found that 37 percent of US service members feel under-appreciated.

“It’s our way of celebrating our partnership with Coca-Cola and helping everyone show their support for our service members,” adds Travis Burgin, USO’s director of marketing and advertising, in Coca-Cola’s press release in response to the joint campaign. 

But Coca-Cola’s design change can also be seen as an effective marketing tactic.

Not only is Memorial Day Monday, a federal holiday for US citizens to remember soldiers who died serving in the US armed forces, but Independence Day is also less than two months away, when the entire United States will celebrate the country’s independence from Great Britain on July 4.

“They inspire consumers to feel a little boost of nationalistic pride, and the advertisements work because they play into the notions of consumers wanting to support something ‘local’ (that is, American, rather than made overseas),” explains Solomon Thimothy, founder and CEO of OneIMS Insider. However, “it does not seem to matter if the brand actually is American or patriotic, or if their products are produced on American soil. What seems to matter is how well these brands market to people for whom patriotism and pride in their country is an important value.”

Earlier this month, Anheuser-Busch made a similar patriotic redesign. 

From May 23 until the presidential election in November, Budweiser beer will be renamed "America" on the front of all 12-oz. cans and bottles to remind consumers to “embrace the optimism upon which the country was first built,” and to benefit from positive consumer connotations as well as free marketing, say marketing researchers.    

“The brand is also modifying Budweiser’s iconic label to add copy that is central to American history, including phrases from the Pledge of Allegiance and lyrics from ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ and ‘America the Beautiful,” says Budweiser in a press release. “These cans and bottles aim to inspire drinkers to celebrate America and Budweiser’s shared values of freedom and authenticity.”

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