Brief Case Study: Coca-Cola Responds to New York City’s Elimination of Large-Sized Drinks

May 31, 2012

By David Fogel, Ph.D.

Earlier this week, Mayor Bloomberg of New York City announced a proposal to ban sales of soda in containers larger than 16 ounces in an effort to help curb obesity. The mayor offered "You can still be obese, we are just telling you this is detrimental to your health and helping you understand that with portion size." The proposal requires approval from the city’s Board of Health and is expected to go into effect next year.

The Coca-Cola Company responded today with a press release:

"The people of New York City are much smarter than the New York City Health Department believes. We are transparent with our consumers. They can see exactly how many calories are in every beverage we serve. We have prominently placed calorie counts on the front of our bottles and cans and in New York City, restaurants already post the calorie content of all their offerings and portion sizes -- including soft drinks.

New Yorkers expect and deserve better than this. They can make their own choices about the beverages they purchase. We hope New Yorkers loudly voice their disapproval about this arbitrary mandate." (Click here to go to the Coca-Cola press release page.)

EffectCheck® analysis shows Coca-Cola’s press release evokes high levels of hostility and compassion, relative to other press releases:


Coca-Cola Effect Check Analysis

This is an interesting mixture of emotions. A more typical call-to-action announcement may combine anxiety and compassion, bringing together the fear of something happening (or not happening) with the empathy to assist. Here, lexically, the emotional profile may engender more of a tension between the push of hostility and the embrace of compassion. Of note, in the two paragraphs, none of the evoked anxiety and depression occurs in the first paragraph, which offers a self-defense of Coca-Cola’s transparency with calorie information. Instead, it occurs in the words loudly, disapproval, arbitrary, and mandate – juxtaposed to the reference to hoping New Yorkers reject the mayor’s efforts.

It will be of interest to follow further exchanges on this issue and determine if the hostility and compassion are being directed at their intended targets.