Updated Sunday 30 November 2014 23:40 NZST
In 1981 I travelled to India and Africa. I was 25 years old, working for Corso, and it was my first big trip overseas. I attended a Conference on New and Renewable Sources of Energy in Nairobi, Kenya on behalf of Corso and then went on to Mogadishu in Somalia to investigate and report on the refugee situation in that country. From Mogadishu I travelled throughout the south, mostly catching rides with local police and UNHCR officials, visiting refugee camps and talking to aid and medical workers. And everywhere I went, there were bottles of Coca-Cola.
It was then I noticed that, even though the Coca-Cola bottle was a registered trademark and instantly recognisable around the world, each country seemed to have interpreted the bottle's distinctive shape in theior own way. Is this how global brands exercise their power, I thought? By allowing local variations within a larger specification or framework? Or is this just what happens when local people co-opt a global brand and make it their own? Is this just the same thing?
I kept my eye out for Coca-Cola bottles while I was travelling through the United States and Europe in the 1980s. I added a few more bottles in the 1990s, when I was travelling frequently to North Asia and the Middle East. Then bottles became harder to find.
It's been maybe 15 years since I added a Coca-Cola bottle to my collection. Along the way the bottles, once pristine, have become a little rubbed. The differences still fascinate me though. Take a closer look, and you'll see what I mean.
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