ATLANTA — There’s a 27-foot-tall bottle of Coca-Cola, 1,000 pieces of memorabilia, special effects — and Andy Warhol, too.
The $100 million New World of Coca-Cola museum here, which opened Thursday, is a huge brand-building machine intended to stimulate the senses and engage the emotions of consumers, all in the name of the world’s most recognizable brand.
The 92,000-square-foot facility in downtown Atlanta’s Centennial Park, which replaces a smaller museum that closed last month, is next door to the Georgia Aquarium and rivals it in scale and spectacle. Officials expect one million visitors annually to immerse themselves in all things Coca-Cola, which was created here 120 years ago by Atlanta pharmacist John S. “Doc” Pemberton.
The facility, located a few miles from The Coca-Cola Co.’s corporate headquarters, is the latest among a growing number of corporate museums.
“Coca-Cola is one of the few brands that can support a corporate museum on this level,” said Bruce Weindruch, chief executive officer of The History Factory, a Chantilly, Va.-based firm that helps develop museums and manage archives whose clients include Belk, Brooks Brothers and The Home Depot. “Coke has the history and depth of exposure, and has nurtured its connection with consumers’ lives all along. Few others have that potential.”
The New World of Coca-Cola experience begins outside the building’s sweeping glass exterior, with the contour bottle sculpture that hangs in a 90-foot glass tower. The tower lights up at night with a myriad of colors that can be synchronized to music, and the light reflects on a pond that is intended to symbolize the importance of water in making Coca-Cola.
The lobby is lined with some of the 1,000 advertising artifacts, including its oldest poster of Coke from Christmas 1905. A a 226-seat theater screens an animated film based on Coke’s “Happiness Factory” advertisement. Visitors then exit into the Connection Hub, an atrium where a large portrait wall features still photos accompanied by audio describing Coca-Cola’s global good deeds, from helping impoverished Vietnamese women to providing clean water in Kenya. The Hub branches off into six areas: pop culture, advertising, bottling, tasting, milestones and a so-called “4-D” theater, which visitors use at their own pace.
This story first appeared in the May 25, 2007 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The 4-D theater is the most over-the-top experience. Visitors don 3-D glasses, sit in seats that bump and vibrate, mist water and simulate wind, while viewing “In Search of the Secret Formula,” which is about the ingredients involved in producing Coke.
The pop-culture room has rotating art exhibits. Twenty-five pieces by Andy Warhol are on loan from Pittsburgh’s Andy Warhol Museum, with sketches, photos and videos on Coke. The room also includes a corporate video about the 1985 “New Coke” launch fiasco that chronicles the public outcry that led to reinstating Classic Coke.
Visitors may design their own computer-generated artwork for a Coke advertisement, then display it on overhead screens and e-mail it to friends. The technologically challenged can write and post a plain letter reminiscing about their Coca-Cola memories on a huge letter wall.
The advertising theater runs Coca-Cola’s historic advertisements, such as the famed “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” commercial and international spots never seen in the U.S.
In the Tasting Lab, visitors may sample more than 70 Coca-Cola products, including new Odwalla health drinks, and items yet to hit the shelves. The Bottle Works room replicates a bottling plant and deposits an 8-oz. Coca-Cola bottle, fresh off the line, with each visitor.
Guests exit through a gift store, where they can engage in the most interactive of all experiences — buying product.
The New World of Coca-Cola, 121 Baker Street, Atlanta; 404- 676-5151; woccatlanta.com. Open daily, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., through the end of May, and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m from June through August. Adult admission is $14 online or $15 at the door; ages five to 12, $8 online or $9 at the door, and under age four, free.