Even Coke is Bikewashing These Days

Posted on 08/07/2013


Detail from a Coke can

Bicycles atop a car – Detail from a Coke can

In an earlier post, I mentioned the way that advertisers are using bikes to sell other non-bike products. Elly Blue at Taking the Lane calls this “bikewashing.” Though it can be a bit irritating sometimes (to me, especially when bikes are used to sell cars), it’s actually probably a good thing. It indicates bicycling has positive associations.

Last night I came across a bikewashing example from a Coca-Cola can (images above and below.) It’s disappointing to me some of the messages that Coke is sending. Coke as a product is, of course, a thing of very little utility or health value. Coke is a corporation that has quite a bit of corporate malfeasance on its hands – from water privatization to anti-union activity. Drinking plenty of sugary soda makes folks overweight and unhealthy, so Coke wants to appear healthy and to be associated with things that enhance fitness: bikes. To me it’s irritating that they’re using a bike on top of a car, associating the health value of bicycling with the sort of bike rides where one straps a bike on top of a car. It’s not bicycling as an everyday mode of transportation.

Minutia Department: The image on the Coke can is a bit odd. When I looked at it closely, I noticed that there are two different kinds of bicycles atop the car. The one on the left is a road bike, with typical ten-speed drop handlebars. The one on the right is probably a mountain bike, with straighter handlebars and a tighter frame. Apparently this freedom that Coke wants you to think that you can drive to requires two different bikes. Or maybe that car belongs to a couple that takes their bikes on vacation, then doesn’t bike together when they arrive. Or maybe the graphic designer was just copying some varied source material that she/he wasn’t all that familiar with. (I’ve done that before.) Who knows?

Joe’s note to greenwashers: don’t assume I need a car to enjoy the awesomeness of bicycling. The best vacations and bike trips don’t start behind the wheel of a car. For one example, read this.

What bikewashing have you encountered lately? What do you think of it? What implications do you see in examples you come across daily?

The whole Coca-Cola can featuring bicycles atop a car

The whole Coca-Cola can featuring bicycles atop a car

Posted in: bike_culture