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Vitaminwater: More Coca-Cola Shenanigans

Vitaminwater: More Coca-Cola Shenanigans
Angelo Coppola

In The Coca-Cola Solution, I talked about Coca-Cola’s recent advertising campaign that is being pitched to the public as the company’s ‘recognition of the problem of obesity.’ The ad is filled with manipulation, misinformation, and pure marketing BS.

Not surprisingly, Coca-Cola is being sued because of the advertising techniques they use in one of their product lines, Vitaminwater. The Stephen Colbert segment below provides an entertaining look at this.

Notably, the techniques used in the two-minute obesity advertisement are perfectly legal. For example, they are filled with positive images of healthy people. These images are inserted into the ad to fool our minds into believing that these normal, happy, attractive, everday people support Coca-Cola and its message. In one 5-second segment of the ad, they flashed thirty-three faces before our eyes. I didn’t count how many video cuts were in the 2-minute ad, but it’s safe to say there were hundreds. I suspect this is employed to create a state of mental confusion by overly stimulating our visual senses, making us more susceptible to their audio message.

Again, all of that is legal…and here’s a pretty good look at why they are being sued:

There ya go. It’s so nice to get a little dose of humor with what’s really a depressing topic. Like I mentioned in The Coca-Cola Solution, Coca-Cola spends billions of dollars every year on advertising. And they do this because advertising works. We are all susceptible to advertising to a certain degree. All of us. And so, it is without hesitation that I encourage you to:

  • Reduce the amount of advertising you invite into your life
  • Minimize the amount of advertising your children are exposed to:
    • Turn off your cable, and instead purchase TV shows on iTunes or Amazon
    • Pick up an AppleTV, Roku (plays Amazon Instant Streaming, but not iTunes), or other device that will help you cut the (cable) cord and stream services like Netflix to your TV.
    • Talk to your kids about how advertising works, explain that what they are seeing is staged, and not necessarily true.
Deceptive and unsubstantiated claims

Doesn’t this describe all of Coca-Cola’s ads? What you believed they want to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony?

Now, of course Coca-Cola would have us believe that advertising doesn’t work. They might claim that their advertising dollars are being spent for brand awareness, except for 94% of the WORLD population already recognizes the red and white Coca-Cola ad.

Coca-Cola says:

“…no consumer could reasonably be misled into thinking Vitaminwater was a healthy beverage.”

reasonably misled

Coke says no consumer could be reasonably misled into believing Vitaminwater is a healthy beverage.

No, no, no — of course not! A reasonable consumer would never believe that the product we named VITAMINwater is actually a healthy beverage. The name, the way we’ve designed the label to look almost like a prescription label, and the claims we make right there on the bottle…no one would actually believe that Vitaminwater is good for them.

But there are vitamins in Vitaminwater, right?

penny's worth of vitamins

There’s a whole penny’s worth of vitamins in each bottle of vitamin water.


If you’re eating a balanced diet, you won’t likely benefit from drinking vitamin water, which is water that’s been fortified with nutrients, such as vitamins and electrolytes. Some types of vitamin water also have flavorings, caffeine and sweeteners. As always, it’s important to check the label for ingredients. And check the calorie count while you’re at it.

Remember, fruits, vegetables and other whole foods are the best sources of vitamins and minerals. And it’s tough to beat plain water as a healthy, no-calorie drink. If you don’t care for plain water, try sparkling water or a squirt of lemon or cranberry juice in your water.

Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. – Mayo Clinic

Vitaminwater claims

Coca-Cola sued for fraudulent claims

The problem is Coca-Cola does make claims about their Vitaminwater beverage, and some of them are right there on the label:

vitaminwater label

This is an example of a Vitaminwater label. Their cute stories are followed by a statement about the benefits of the ingredients. But Coca-Cola thinks you’d be a fool to believe these statements…and they’re right.

Ultimately, just like Coca-Cola’s obesity advertisement, it comes down to us. We can’t believe corporate messaging. We have to protect our children from corporate advertising and low-quality products masquerading as responsible choices. And we have to vote with our dollars. You’d better believe Coca-Cola votes with their dollars! They paid $4.2 billion in cash to acquire Vitaminwater. How’s that for a vote of confidence?

Well, Coca-Cola and other large companies are exceedingly good at creating problems, like “focus,” on the label above. And then creating a super-cheap product that supposedly addresses the problem.  Then, they spend big bucks on sending us little signals that say, “Hey, you can’t focus. There must be something wrong with you. You’re not going to have your $#!t together until you buy our product. You’re missing something…let us fill that need.” Well, remember: Humans Are Not Broken!

What do you think about Vitaminwater and the “energy drink” craze? I hope you will share your thoughts in the comments below.

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  • Sarra Bess

    When I was young, my parents bought my sister and I a subscription to a magazine called “Zillions”. The magazine was directed at children, and was about advertising, specifically, about “decoding” advertising and, essentially, not believing any of it. (I learn by Googling that it was actually put out by Consumer Reports, which doesn’t surprise me in the slightest.) It reached me at an impressionable age — which was the point — and as a result, I’ve been critical of advertising since I was a child. If only that were common.

    Of course, Zillions itself could not host advertising in its pages without contradicting its message, and it eventually folded through lack of funds. Which is indicative of how the world works, I suppose.

    • How interesting! Maybe with the economics of the web, something like this would be viable. I’ll definitely see if I can get ahold of back issues.