When I saw the title “Inside Coca-Cola,” I was not sure what kind of book I was going to end up reading. But as a Coke drinker, I was intrigued. Everyone hears the good and bad of a company, from the smallest to the largest, but when someone who has actually “been there” working for the company, we get to read about the types of things no reporter or media outlet gets the scoop to. And that’s one of the things that appealed to me about this book, written by former Coke CEO Neville Isdell, with the help of David Beasley. Inside Coca-Cola is Neville’s journey from his beginnings at a bottling plant in South Africa and to his rise as the CEO of the Atlanta-based soda company, probably recognized throughout the world as one of THE major brands. The book contains Coke’s ongoing competition against Pepsi, of course, trying to stay one step ahead of their competitor and avoiding anything in their ads that are even remotely tied to Pepsi Cola in any way (for example, an ad Neville put together was rejected because the character was holding a Wilson tennis racket, and Wilson favored Pepsi). To be sure, there were many things in this book that really opened my eyes to how corporations work, and how they survive after over 100 years in business despite lawsuits, investigations and losing popular sponsors.
But it’s not just a guide on how a company can stay in business. Yes, this is Neville’s story. This is the lessons he has learned, these are the travel stories he has gathered and this is his message to the world. I was bewildered that a company producing such a product that is the target of health problems such as diabetes and obesity was promoting a nutritional program, but this is just one way Coke is trying to create a positive difference in the world. Neville is the one pushing such an ideal. Satisfy the customer and give back. As it says in the very last chapter: “In the future, corporations will increasingly be judged not only by customers but by investors, not just on the quality of our products or their profits, but also on our values and holistically add value to the world. That is going to be a significant measuring stick as to whether or not people invest in a company. … Investors are realizing that if companies alienate the societies in which they operate, if they destroy the environment, sap precious natural resources, and ignore major social problems, they will alienate their customers and ultimately fail.” (Pg. 240) This book was an in-depth and insightful look at how one man moved through the ranks of Coca-Cola and transformed it into one of the biggest selling and influential beverage companies in the world.
Born in Ireland, Neville Isdell falls in love with the South African village his father and mother move him to and it is from there he ends up working at a bottling plant for Coca-Cola. Neville never once leaves this company, working tirelessly and passionately to keep the company running strong and in top shape. His father always taught hi to be the best he can be and Neville puts this principle to use while working for Coca-Cola for several decades. His many travels throughout the world are detailed in this book, along with the meetings he has had with princes, presidents and Hollywood celebrities to promote the Coca-Cola drink and keep the company going strong.
The first book by a Coca-Cola CEO tells the remarkable story of the company’s revival.
Neville Isdell was a key player at Coca-Cola for more than thirty years, retiring in 2009 as Chairman after rebuilding the tarnished brand image of the world’s leading soft-drink company. Inside Coca-Cola tells an extraordinary personal and professional worldwide story, ranging from Northern Ireland to South Africa to Australia, the Philippines, Russia, Germany, India, South Africa, and Turkey. Isdell helped put out huge public-relations fires (India and Turkey), opened markets (Russia, Eastern Europe, the Philippines, and Africa), championed Muhtar Kent, the current Turkish-American CEO, all while living the ideal of corporate responsibility. Isdell’s—and Coke’s—story is newsy without being gossipy; principled without being preachy, and filled with stories and lessons appealing to anyone who has ever taken “the pause that refreshes.” It’s also a readable and important look at how companies can market and govern themselves more—ethically and to great success.