Coca-Cola Steps up -- or Does It?

Coca-Cola is pledging to stop marketing to children under the age of 12, and to fund exercise programs in countries in which they do business. Will it do any good?

Ernest Woodruff and W. C. Bradley teamed up with investors and purchased the Coca-Cola Company back in 1919. The rest, they say, is history. Today, Coca-Cola sells over 3500 products in over 200 countries.

In addition to being highly successful at selling beverages, Coca-Cola seems to be demonstrating a sense of social responsibility. The Consumerist reports that the company has agreed to implement four pro-social policies worldwide:

1. Offer low- or no-calorie beverage options in every market;

2. Provide transparent nutrition information, featuring calories on the front of all of our packages;

3. Help get people moving by supporting physical activity programs in every country where we do business;

4. Market responsibly, including no advertising to children under 12 anywhere in the world.

Obesity is such a widespread problem in American children today that feeding them sugar-water is downright silly. And let's not forget that sugar-water rots teeth faster than anything else you can drink or eat. So, a sugar-water company pledging to not market to kids and to encourage physical activity to fight obesity might sound like a great plan, at first blush.

Over at Food Politics, they are quick to point out that Coca-Cola has done this before and with unimpressive results. It makes for a great public relations campaign, and might temporarily drive up sales as consumers look to support socially responsible companies. The bottom line, however, is that the way to fight obesity and other soda-related health problems is to eschew drinking soda. Coca-Cola cannot endorse this, for obvious reasons.

While it sounds good to promise not to advertise to children, keeping vending machines in school cafeterias seems to negate this benefit. Once a child reaches 12 years of age, he is fair game for soda marketing campaigns. The teen years are the time children experiment the most with not complying with parent's requests, so health-conscious families will likely have soda-drinking children over the age of 12 who are responding to advertisements making soda look cool.

If Coca-Cola really wants to be known for a pro-social agenda, perhaps the better tactic would be to focus more on developing their more healthy brands, such as Dasani water, Simply Orange, and Honest Tea, and scaling back on pushing sugar-water in school cafeterias and restaurants. But that will not likely happen unless and until it becomes the more lucrative option.

Tell Us What You Think

If Coca-Cola wants to be known for a pro-social agenda, what should they ideally do? Leave a comment or join the conversation on Twitter.

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