September 13, 2012
Top left: “Anti Coke Poster” photo-illustration by Bernice Chao; on right: a similar photo illustration (artist unknown) from a blog post about Malcolm Gladwell on Simplovore; 2nd row, right: photograph by Fabian Frausto; bottom row, left: photo-illustration from iCancer5 article entitled, “Sugar CAN Make You Dumb, US Scientists Warned“; on right: Dave Makes’ “Coke and Diabetes” poster/logo
For beverage brand Coca-Cola, climbing to the top of the heap has certain drawbacks. As the iconic brand of all brands, Coca-Cola is the obvious choice for pointedly ironic commentary, as with these illustrations that all combine the idea of Coke and syringes.
The meaning varies somewhat… in its patent medicine days, Coca Cola used to contain cocaine… nowadays, the idea that sugar, itself, is addictive has traction… and then there’s the issue of public health, obesity and type 2 diabetes. The price of success for the Coke brand, is that it gets to be the poster child for all of these negative issues.
Yet it was Pepsi, not Coke, that was embroiled in the 1993 product tampering scare in which consumers from 20 different states claimed to find syringes in their cans of Pepsi and Diet Pepsi.
Store surveillance video of Gail M. Levine putting a syringe into her Diet Pepsi was a key piece of evidence that turned things around for Pepsi… (video via: Public Relations: A Values-Driven Approach)
On the morning of June 15, 1993, Levine entered a King Soopers supermarket in Aurora, Colorado, and approached the customer service counter with a can of Diet Pepsi from a six-pack she had. Levine asked the clerk at the service counter to open the can for her. The clerk opened the can and returned it to Levine. Levine then gave the clerk a check to cash. While the clerk was cashing the check, Levine placed a syringe containing a needle into the open can of Diet Pepsi. Levine handed the can back to the clerk, claiming that she heard something in the can. The clerk took the can, emptied its contents into a container, and discovered the syringe. The store manager took possession of the can, the syringe, and the remaining five unopened Diet Pepsi cans. Believing that Levine had paid for the six-pack of Diet Pepsi, the manager had the clerk refund the cost to Levine.
After leaving the store, Levine contacted local television stations. Those stations interviewed her and her story ran on local news broadcasts in the Denver area. During the evening of June 15, Levine telephoned a number of individuals she knew and either asked them to watch for her on TV or asked whether they had seen her on TV. Among those persons Levine contacted was Myra Young, Levine’s manicurist. Young told Levine that the news stories suggested that Levine had put the syringe in the can of Diet Pepsi. Later that same evening, Levine again contacted Young and said that she (Levine) should probably get an attorney. Levine then asked Young if she knew any attorneys and Young recommended her brother, Dale Sadler.
Interestingly, this product-tampering story has a diabetic element: “Levine is diabetic and had a prescription for syringes…”
Clearly diabetics are important consumers of diet soda, but sometimes even a diabetic will turn against the brand and go rogue.
More recently, Hân Pham’s invention for cheaply disposing of syringes has again given us a reason to associate soda cans with used syringes…