Coca-Cola Hopes New Museum Will Boost Corporate Brand, Image

Dec. 26 – Coca-Cola wants to do more than talk about branding, its heritage and the different international variations of its colored sugar water when it opens its new museum in May.

The planet’s most recognized brand, which is building a new museum next to the Georgia Aquarium, has created an exhibition to communicate its philanthropic efforts around the globe.

The Portrait Wall, which features life-sized photos of people in communities around the globe where Coke has aided local programs, will be one of the first displays visitors see at the new World of Coca-Cola, said Rachel Reid, a creative content manager for the company.

Visitors can press a button near each portrait for accompanying audio to learn how the beverage giant has supported the subject’s community.

The philanthropy includes helping cleanup efforts of beaches in Mumbai, India, supporting AIDS education in Africa, backing a project to teach women business skills in Vietnam and getting behind soccer programs for children in Mexico.

“This shows that while Coca-Cola is a huge company internationally, it operates locally,” Reid said.

It’s also a contrast to the less flattering image the company has had over the years, from the pressure it received in the 1980s to divest from South Africa to long-standing questions about Coke and the beverage industry’s impact on child obesity. Most recently, the company has been accused of ignoring violence against bottling workers in Colombia.

Haven Riviere , vice president and general manager of the new World of Coca-Cola, said the wall tells who Coke is beyond its products, advertising or business strategies. A goal of the new facility is to make the company more three-dimensional to visitors who know only its beverages.

“This helps us to bring our total portfolio to life,” he said.

Other displays will include Coke’s own “Art of Harmony,” an art competition the company began in New York in 1992 to help teens develop artistic talent.

Another is the Beverage Institute for Health and Wellness’ outreach and research on health trends.

Coca-Cola hired international photographer Mark Edward Harris , who specializes in capturing images of people in their native environments. The staff traveled around the world for the shots, globetrotting from Vienna to Singapore to Johannesburg to the Galapagos Islands.

Getting the images wasn’t always easy, Harris said. It took two days to get to the school in Mongolia that was the subject of one of the shoots. The group traveled by four-wheel drive vehicle and camel.

“It was great,” he said. “Half the crew loved it, half the crew wanted to walk back.”

In Kisumu , in western Kenya, where Coke helped fund a clean water program, the crew had to find a generator because there was no electricity in the small school that was the shoot’s location.

“The actual shooting was quick, but getting into those places was something different,” Harris said. “The rougher the place, the more intense the project.”

But Reid said that shoot also demonstrated why Coke has taken such pride in its philanthropy.

Before the clean water project, everyone in the area of the Kisumu shoot got their drinking water from local creeks that were polluted from animal and other waste. One of them was a woman who appears on the Portrait Wall.

“Her family was preparing her funeral because of how sick she was from drinking from the creek,” Reid said. “That project turned that entire community around.”