Known as soda, pop, soda pop, soft drink, cola, or generally as “coke,” the fizzy carbonated beverage we’ll just call “soda” is a staple on lunch and dinner tables across the globe, and its advertising products are a major part of classic Americana for collectors.
Soda: A Medical Miracle?
When they were first produced, soft drinks were thought to have medical properties, although that myth has been debunked as many products contain less-than-desireable amounts of high fructose corn syrup, sodium, and artificial sweeteners or sugar substitutes.
Regardless, cola companies have evolved into multi-billion dollar international corporations and their advertising history attests to their meteoric rise. Take a look at some of the … let’s say advertising exaggerations that made those companies what they are today.
The name “Coca-Cola” refers to the soft drink’s two main ingredients; kola nuts and coca leaves. The beverage was originally intended to be a patent medicine by Colonel John Pemberton of the Confederate army who was wounded in the American Civil War and became addicted to morphine.
His original recipe was formulated at his drugstore in Columbus, Georgia as a coca wine. When Fulton County passed prohibition laws 1886, Pemberton created a non-alcoholic version of his wine that became known as Coca-Cola. The carbonated water is what was believed to make the drink medicine and he claimed it could cure morphine addiction, indigestion, nerve disorders, headaches, and impotence.
Originally created and marketed as an orange soda, Crush eventually became a direct alternative and competitor to Coca-Cola’s Fanta brand. Developed by California beverage and extract chemist Neil C. Ward, Crush was incorporated in 1911 and premiered as Ward’s Orange Crush.
The original product contained actual orange pulp in order to give the illusion that the product comes from fresh squeezed oranges. It is widely known for being non-caffeinated. The product is widely distributed throughout the world, including Latin America where Coca-Cola distributes it using the same bottles and colors as its Fanta brand. So much for having its own brand identity.
A&W Root Beer
A&W Root Beer is one of the most widely known root beer brands to ever hit the soft drink market. Created and developed by Roy W. Allen and Frank Wright in 1919, the two men started the famous A&W burger restaurant chain only three years later.
The mascot is known as the Great Root Bear named Rooty, and was born in 1974 in the company’s Canadian market. Rooty’s theme song is the tuba-heavy tune, “Ba-Dum, Ba-Dum” and was even released as a single credited to Major Ursus, a play on the constellation Ursa Major, which translates to “great bear.”
Whistle Orange Soda
Whistle Orange Soda was introduced in 1925 under the Vess Soda brand. Only four years later the stock market crash led to the company’s financial ruin and the business was sold to Donald Schneebarger, a marketing genius of his time who reshaped the business and added a few new flavors to the line.
The Vess brand is still alive today and is responsible for a few standard cola flavors under the slogan, “The Billion Bubble Beverage.” An interesting fact about the Vess family; they own one of the most premium collections of Chinese ceramics and American and European prints from the 19th and 20th centuries in the United States.
7 Up Lithiated
7 Up was originally branded as “Bib-Label Lithiated Lemon-Lime Soda” and was officially released two weeks prior to the Wall Street Crash of 1929. The name stems from the lithium citrate ingredient the product contained until 1950, which was a mood-stabilizing drug.
In the late-19th and early-20th centuries many products were labeled as patent medicines before the extensive use of clinical trials that proved many of these products had no medicinal value. The name was shortened to “7 Up Lithiated Lemon Soda” before it was finally shortened to just 7 Up in 1936. Little known fact: in 1978, the cigarette manufacturer Philip Morris purchased 7 Up.
Created in 1934 by A.W. Leo, Tom Yates, and Ralph Harrison, the original flavors of Hawaiian Punch include apple, apricot, guava, orange, papaya, passion fruit, and pineapple. The Hawaiian Punch mascot, Punchy, has become widely synonymous with the drink along with his infamous tagline, “Hey! How ‘bout a nice Hawaiian Punch?” Oaf, his adversarial counterpart would answer a simple, “Sure” before unknowingly becoming on the receiving end of Punchy’s punch.
The commercial itself actually won several awards and became famous after airing on The Tonight Show with Jack Paar in 1962. Paar even played the commercial a second time noting, “the second time is free.”
Herb Bishop developed Squirt in 1938 while he was in college in Phoenix, Arizona, and boasted less fruit juice and sugar than its competitors. Three years after the soda pop’s creation, Lil’ Squirt was introduced to the marketplace. The soft drink was immensely popular in the West and Southwest and served as a common cocktail mixer.
The adorable mascot resembles a close relative to Elmer Fudd. The drink’s promotion as a refreshing alternative to other brands on the market was widely successful and has continued to help with its promotion today. After the brand was bought and sold several times in its long history, it is currently owned by the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group and is also sold as a diet option.
Canada Dry Ginger Ale
Canadian pharmacist and chemist John L. McLaughlin created Canada Dry in 1904. McLaughlin worked in a soda factory in New York and wound up starting his own carbonated water plant in Toronto. Canada Dry was named because the soft drink was less sweet than its competitors.
The drink rose in popularity during Prohibition because it effectively helped mask the taste of illegal and notoriously strong homemade liquor. Since 1950, Canada Dry has been producing a wide variety of flavors and products. Really not sure how Canada Dry can be used as a spread, but maybe that’s why it’s not marketed that way anymore.
Orange Fanta Jester
Fanta is widely known as an innocent and tasty orange beverage, but its roots are much more sinister. The soda was created by the Coca-Cola Company in Nazi Germany as a workaround for the ingredients, such as the syrup, that were under a strict trade embargo.
Max Keith, the head of Coca-Cola in Germany, created the product made from ingredients only found in Germany at the time. The Fanta Jester mascot has largely faded into obscurity, and there is nothing important that makes him stand out except for the fact that he can chug two bottles of Fanta at once. And, of course, he can balance a bottle of soda on one of his feet at the same time.
Frostie Root Beer
Frostie Root Beer was sold in the United States beginning in 1939 and was sold to the Monarch Beverage Company of Atlanta, Georgia in 1979. Because the company preferred the promotion of the famous Dad’s Root Beer, Frostie was severely under-promoted and did not make it to mainstream success.
The brand did continue to remain on the shelves even though it was sold twice more since 2000. Consumers could not just enjoy the regular root beer flavor, but also the diet version, Vanilla Root Beer, Blue Cream Soda, Cherry Limeade, Concord Grape, Orange flavor, Pink Lemonade, Strawberry Watermelon, and Green Apple.
Before Mountain Dew was rebranded as Mtn Dew and sold by the PepsiCo as a soft drink geared towards extreme athletes, the beverage was invented in 1940 by Barney and Ally Hartman.
One variety of Mountain Dew was in existence until Mountain Dew Red was developed in 1988. In 2001, Code Red hit the markets and limited variations of the drink became available at Taco Bell locations. 2001 also saw the release of the energy drink variation of Mountain Dew called Amp. “The Dew” as it’s widely known was also released as “Gamer Fuel” in order to appeal to the growing video game culture.
Coca-Cola’s Sprite Boy
One might think the 1940s Sprite Boy mascot for Coca-Cola was created for the company’s Sprite brand, and one would be dead wrong. The name Sprite comes from the character’s likeness to an elf – or sprite. The Sprite soft drink wasn’t created until 1961.
The company tried to discourage the use of the name “Coke” for its products but finally succumbed to public pressure in 1942 when the name first appeared in a major advertising campaign with the Sprite Boy as the face. The final image of the Sprite Boy mascot was designed by Haddon, Sundblom, who was the same artist famously known for creating the Coca-Cola Santa Claus image.
While experimenting in his mother’s garage, Edward Perkins developed the popular beverage concentrate. Maybe Kool-Aid didn’t get the memo about how freaky clowns are, or kids were just a lot braver than we are now. Either way, no one can dispute Kool-Aid’s marketing prowess with the creation of the Kool-Aid Man. “OH, YEAH!”
The mascot was developed soon after General Foods bought the brand in the 1950s and he began to appear in almost every advertisement including print ads and television spots. The Kool-Aid Man has undergone a CGI makeover since and is marketed as a celebrity who is just a regular guy.
7 Up’s Fresh-Up Freddie
Fresh-Up Freddie was the first 7 Up mascot to hit the television airwaves in 1957. The spokesman was created by Disney for 7 Up’s sponsorship of their hit primetime Zorro series and was voiced by Paul Frees, the man behind the famous character of Boris Badenov of The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.
The character is said to be a mash-up of Panchito and the Aracuan Bird from The Three Caballeros cartoon. His main job was to convince people that 7 Up was the perfect drink for planning the perfect party or picnic and insisted people always have enough 7 Up stocked in their fridge.
Hot Dr. Pepper
When soft drinks are heated up to a certain degree, they turn into a warm, cider-like beverage. While the makers of Dr. Pepper were working on a marketing strategy to keep sales up on the cold beverage during the winter months of the 1960s, they came up with “Hot Dr. Pepper.”
The trend caught on in the Southern states, the birthplace of carbonated beverages, and some small towns still continue the sweltering soda pop tradition, although the trend has largely died out. If you’d like to give it a try, Dr. Pepper’s makers recommend heating the (glass bottle, sugar-sweetened) drink up on a stove top to 180 degrees.
Hi-Cecil the giraffe became the obscure mascot for Hi-C fruit drinks and appeared on the beverage’s cans in the 1960s. He was mainly added to the drink’s packaging as a way to appeal to kids and even appeared in his own fun activity book. Even thought Hi-Cecil was only popular for a brief time, a giraffe at the Houston Zoo was named after him.
Hi-C did not develop the Hi-Cecil character too much and there is not much other information on him, however, you can still find obscure Hi-Cecil products available on eBay and other auction sites such as original cans on which he appeared as well as the activity book he was featured in.
Many people may not remember this obscure lemon lime soda that was only available for a couple of very short decades. Teem Lemon Lime Soda was the PepsiCo’s answer to 7 Up and the Coca-Cola brand’s Sprite in the 1960s. After an unsuccessful introduction into the soda market, the drink was discontinued in 1984, when Slice was introduced as a tastier alternative.
Teem soda was actually still sold in South America, Honduras, South Africa, and Egypt until the 1960s when shelf space was filled with 7 Up. Teem soda was one of the more popular non-caffeinated soft drinks to help ease pains from stomach illnesses.
7 Up’s Cool Spot
The famous red spot on the 7 Up logo showed up in 1967 when the brand began religiously referring to itself as “the UNCOLA,” which sent sales skyrocketing. Throughout the development of different logos, the spot continued to grace the labels of 7 Up brand sodas when the more modern version of the logo was created in 1982 as the brand began to promote “No Caffeine.”
Cool Spot was born in 1987 and was brought to life as an animated character in commercials and was officially licensed in his own video game for Nintendo Game Boy. Unfortunately, Cool Spot is no longer used but is still widely recognizable.
Chocolate Soldier was a chocolate drink similar to Yoo-Hoo and Quik sold in glass bottles from 1966 through 1988 by the Monarch Beverage Company. Perhaps it was the unimaginative advertising campaign and stiff competition, but there is not much information about Chocolate Soldier drinks still available.
The chocolate beverage will obscurely live in the empty corners of the Internet with a few advertisements and posts on discussion boards. There is even less demand from past customers for its return. With an overly saturated chocolate drink industry, we probably won’t be seeing the return of Chocolate Soldier in our lifetime.
Chilly Willee frozen drinks were very popular in the 1970s along the same lines as Slurpee, Icee, and Slush Puppies. The name is not to be confused with Chilly Willy penguin cartoon character from the 1950s.
The Chilly Willee mascot was a young boy who appeared to constantly be fighting off brain freeze and had the constant shivers from continuously drinking the icy product. The company utilized a wide variety of marketing ploys, but one of the most popular was its integration of circular shaped baseball cards with each purchase. Many of the cards are available on eBay for upwards of $100.