What is Coca Cola doing with their brand colours?

If ever a brand has an iconic colour its Coca Cola, even being credited as the father of “Father Christmas” colour wise, so it was clearly quite a shock to see GREEN Cola cans on the shelves later last year. It took a bit of time to let the “Health / Green / Stevia” message settle in, but one thing we noticed is that there were a number of “Greens”. Had Coke lost the “Colour Plot” or were these teething errors with a new product?


With little effort you can Google Coca Cola Colour Specifications, and for one brand only, a 145 page document lays out chapter and verse how to treat the logo and its settings and applications , but not too much on colour other than a CMYK set of values. HEX and RGB values can also be found on line, and surprisingly a link to the History of Coca Cola does not mention a colour at all.

This got us the thinking, what is Coke up to with their Reds?


It seems the “Event” packaging has more leeway than the I Litre plastic bottle from the corner shop. While label and cap are not the same colour, they are at least in the same country, while the “Event” tin and bottles (100 years, Olympics, FIFA World Cup) vary from each other, their closures and even from side to side.

The local shop had an even more interesting spread of colours in one space: (Note Dr Pepper is NOT a Coca Cola Brand item.

We did some professional measurements using a Konica Minolta CM700d with a 3mm Aperture, and recorded them on SpectraMagic NX Pro and confirm there are considerable differences.


We can see from these charts using the original printed CMYK values, compared to all the containers, labels and closures, not one sample identically matches the other.


Just isolating the CMYK “Master” against the Olympic Bottle we can see considerable colour difference. Differences that a typical QA test would fail.

Does it matter?

Colour phycology says it does from a recognition point of view. With the vast array of images we face every day, deeply ingrained colours like “Coke Red” will be subliminally recognised, and if its a trusted brand, the object will be more trusted than say their “Green” version.

The trouble is, you cant patent a colour. You can patent HOW you get the colour, and what its called, but not the actual physical phenomenon.

Does Coke care?

Who knows, but with the modern ability to copy any colour, perhaps the clever chaps at Coke have hit on variation on a theme as being more “interesting” to the ever bored mind, and at the same time, broaden the breadth of their iconography.

All we can say is that a CMYK is a broad specification, and without CONDITIONS under which those values are created, pretty meaningless. If Coke are critical for the color, you can be sure tucked in the safe with the formula, is a CIE L*a*b specification as well as the attendant 14 conditions to render colour on a Global Scale.