Malcolm Gladwell on Coca-Cola

Billion-dollar company, Coca-Cola, in its television commercial “The Coke Side of Life – Open Happiness”, focuses on not staying in the lines, not having a label, not having to sit up right, and not feeling alone (Coca-Cola). The company’s purpose is to convey the idea that opening a bottle of coke is like opening a little happiness. The language of the text is very colorful. Coke adopts an enthusiastic tone to appeal to similar feelings and experiences of the consumer. According to McCarthy, one aspect of the emergence of positive psychology and the trendiness of happiness has been to see businesses incorporating happiness into their business models.

Coca-Cola’s “Open Happiness” video commercials has been successful in doing just that (McCarthy).

Coca-Cola uses several rhetorical strategies to put together a message that relates happiness to their product. As the commercial begins, playing in the background, is a jingle that suggests opening a little happiness to feel something new (Coca-Cola). The message in the beginning of the commercial is that people don’t have to stay inside the lines.

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Coke uses this logo to relate freedom with happiness. The point being made is that people do not have to stick with beverages such as coffee or tea. Instead, people have the freedom to choose what makes them happy.

Coca-Cola quickly shifts the message of the commercial by stressing the importance of not having a label. During this part, Coca-Cola uses pathos to play on the emotions of those watching by showing the label being removed from the coke bottle (Coca-Cola).

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The same applies if someone is short, tall, skinny or bald, and society decided to place that label on them. As the commercial says, “they do not have to have a label” (Coca-Cola). Happiness comes from being who they are. The same happiness comes from knowing that people don’t have to label which type of coke product they like. People just simply like the brand, Coke.

As the commercial continues, Coke deliberately shows bottles bumping into each other, tilting and then being straightened back up, implying that “you don’t have to sit up straight” (Coca-Cola). “Open Happiness” is a slogan that is both appealing and personal to all generations. Portraying the coke bottles as people of all ages simply shows the stages of life – from infant to elderly – when people cannot stand on their own, to when they need help standing. The pathos in this part of the commercial is relatable since everyone needs someone to lean on from time to time.

The commercial finishes on a more personal note by focusing on making the consumer, of all generations, feel “you are not alone” (Coca-Cola). That statement instantly triggers the response of a smile, which is related to happiness. Again, pathos is used to appeal to emotions and create a connection with consumers. Coke uses this commercial to show unity and happiness throughout various genders, races and nationalities.

To conclude the commercial, spinning solid white coke bottles, symbolizing each aspect of the commercial, are shown disappearing into one single bottle of coke – a symbol of all the commercial’s messages coming together (Coca-Cola). In TED: Ideas Worth Spreading, author Malcolm Gladwell explained the most important lesson of Howard Moskowitz when he said that “embracing the diversity of human beings, we will find a surer way to true happiness.” (Gladwell). Through the four key points of this commercial, Coca-Cola’s successful use of the pathos and logos helps the company to connect with the target audience. The commercial also sends the message that opening a can of coke is like opening a can of happiness, which helps to persuade consumers to purchase their products and think positively of their brands.

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Malcolm Gladwell on Coca-Cola. (2022, Apr 07). Retrieved from

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