I discovered some years ago that the point of most advertising at a certain marque level was not to acquire new customers, but to retain them or even stop “buyer’s regret”.

For example, BMW pretty much never expect somebody to see one of their adverts and think “Oh, that car looks good, I’ll buy one of those!”, because who the hell makes a purchasing decision of that size based on advertising? Most of their advertising is actually focused on people who recently bought one of their cars and is sat there thinking how much of a Ford or GM they could have got for 40% less. It prevents buyer’s regret, and pushes them from just a buyer into a brand-loyal fan. It also enhances brand value in general, which is critical when establishing how much your brand is worth financially.

Brand value is where Coca-Cola come in. Frequently in the UK people will say “it feels like Christmas now”, once the “Christmas is coming” Coke ad with santa on lorries going through town is aired. Think about how powerful that is: people associate the celebration of the Messiah’s birth, or perhaps the most intense emotional experience of the year that you can point to on a calendar, with a can of sugar water.

When you hear “Coke”, you immediately think of the colours of the can, the taste of the drink, and have an emotional response which is probably very happy, positive and affirming. That’s what a lifetime of Coca-Cola telling you what they stand for has done to you.

Recipe-wise, it’s almost identical to Pepsi, but think about how you feel when you think of Pepsi, and how you feel when you think of Coca-Cola. That difference? That’s the advertising. And it kicks in when you’re stood in front of a fridge about to make a purchasing decision.

Most of the Coca-Cola sold around the World is produced under license, it doesn’t come from a magic well, and is relatively easy to synthesise. So how much would the company be worth if it weren’t anything special? Their entire advertising strategy is to increase brand value which also helps them whenever a customer hesitates about buying their product.

p7r comments on ELI5: Why does Coca-cola still advertise?