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The Real Thing: Truth and Power at the Coca-Cola Company (edition 2005)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0375505628, Hardcover)Coca-Cola has become such a ubiquitous American symbol such that it's often hard to distinguish where mere substance ends (its formula is a secret as closely held as military stealth technology) and its seductively overwhelming marketing begins. But in the 1980s and '90s, Coke's new corporate management evolved it from a reliable, if sometimes stodgy, icon of American industry into one of the hottest stocks in a notoriously overheated bull market. That explosive corporate evolution is the focus of veteran NY Times beverage industry reporter Constance Hays' cautionary business history. Eschewing strict chronology in favor of skillfully weaving in appropriate pieces of the company's complex legacy and unique coporate culture to underscore their impact on the contemporary story at hand, Hays carefully dissects a company billed in boom years as a virtual perpetual profit machine of boundless potential. Coke's growth was largely the product of Roberto Goizueta, the methodical, Cuban-born chemist who'd risen through the company's ranks and outflanked fellow veteran executive/personable "super salesman" Don Keough to become its CEO. Goizueta may have been able to rise above the hubris-fueled "New Coke" reformulation fiasco of the mid-80s, but his penchant for ruthless market expansion, corporate rejiggering and tight control of the company's operating details and financial numbers would also sow the seeds for the inevitable collapse that halved Coke's value. That implosion quickly took down successor CEO Doug Forrester--ironically the original financial architect of much of the company's remarkable boom. While this is largely a business history and not a cultural one, it's filled with a wealth of telling human details: corporate pressures exerted on family-owned Coke bottlers to sell out; an obscure academic/stock analyst whose curiosity helped unravel the company's financial secrets; Machiavellian corporate politics where one era's loser becomes another's cautious victor. --Jerry McCulley
(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:19:33 -0400)
Publisher's description: The Real Thing is a portrait of America's most famous product and the men who transformed it from mere soft drink to symbol of freedom. The story, starting with Coke's creation after the Civil War and continuing with its domination of the domestic and worldwide soft-drink business, is a uniquely American tale of opportunity, hope, teamwork, and love, as well as salesmanship, hubris, ambition, and greed. By 1920, the Coca-Cola Company's success depended on a unique partnership with a group of independent bottlers. Together, they had made Coke not just a soft drink but an element of our culture. But the company, intent on controlling everything about Coke, did all it could to dismantle that partnership. In its reach for power, it was more than willing to gamble the past. Constance L. Hays examines a century of Coca-Cola history through the charismatic, driven men who used luck, spin, and the open door of enterprise to turn a beverage with no nutritional value into a remedy, a refreshment, and the world's best-known brand. The story of Coke is also a catalog of carbonation, soda fountains, dynastic bottling businesses, global expansion, and outsize promotional campaigns, including New Coke, one of the greatest marketing debacles of all time. By examining relationships at all levels of the company, The Real Thing reveals the psyche of a great American corporation and how it shadows all business, for better or worse. This is as much a story about America as it is the tale of a great American product, one recognized all over the world. Under the leadership of Roberto Goizueta and Doug Ivester, Coca-Cola reinvented itself for investors, spearheading trends such as lavish executive salaries and the wooing of Wall Street, but when Coke's great global ambitions ran into trouble, it had difficulty getting back on track. The Real Thing is a journey through the soft-drink industry, from the corner office to the vending machine. It is also a social history in which sugared water becomes an international object of consumer desire--and the messages poured upon an eager public gradually obscure the truth.
(summary from another edition)
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