Language and Societies

ANT/LIN 5320 at Wayne State University

Ad Discourse, Mexico vs. United States: The Cultural Universalization of Coca-Cola

Ad Discourse, Mexico vs. United States: The Cultural Universalization of Coca-Cola

Joshua Medina

This paper is a comparative discourse analysis of Coca-Cola commercials in the United States versus Coca-Cola commercials in Mexico. This analysis demonstrates how Coca-Cola uses discourse to convey its message. The commercials collaboration of speech, social context and actions was the main focus of this analysis. Sherzer’s work on discourse explains the power in “artistic” discourse and its bearing on cultural change. Through its discourse, Coca-Cola maximizes the power of grammar and semantics to mobilize social action. This analysis sets out to investigate the discourse of Coca-Cola commercials in Mexico, compared to the United States. What are the underlying themes of the commercials in each country and what social action might they be trying to incite? Secondly, what do the similarities and differences in discourse between the two countries tell us? To answer these questions, a discourse analysis of 20 Coca-Cola commercials, 10 from the United States and 10 from Mexico, was conducted. The results yielded both similarities and differences in advertising, for the two countries. In Mexico, Coca-Cola and dining came up as a theme. Five of the 10 Mexican commercials involved eating meals, compared to none for commercials in the United States. The commercials in the United States focused more on events, such as sports. In Mexico, Coca-Cola commercials naturalize Coke as part of the alimentation process. What was similar in both countries was a message of Coca-Cola as a human universality. Human universality is displayed using themes of social diversity and social inclusiveness, both centered around the commonality of Coca-Cola. The discourse centered around human universality in both countries may be crucial for Coca-Cola’s globalizing agenda. It might be worthwhile for future research to focus on the global health effects of the culturally universalizing discourse surrounding Coca-Cola products.

April 16, 2020 - Posted by | abstract


  1. As someone who grew up pre-Snopes, I almost miss the apocryphal (and largely debunked) tales of corporate American insensitivity to the cultures of their foreign markets (Google “bite the wax tadpole” if you need a good laugh). When I first visited Mexico in the mid-70s, Coke’s slogan was “Coca-Cola adds life.” This was translated as “Coca-Cola da chispa” (literally, “Coke adds spark”), which is pretty good, actually. They clearly had learned something in the intervening half-century. In your proposal, I see mostly comparative analysis of cultural settings (sports events versus mealtimes). What about the ad copy, especially catchy slogans– any corresponding language to be usefully deconstructed?

    Comment by Dan Harrison | April 17, 2020 | Reply

  2. Advertisements, even ones for soda, can speak to such strong human emotions and challenges that people face in the world (all for the sake of coming together and unifying, but also to buy some Coke or Pepsi or etc..). I actually immediately think of how companies will take things too far at times and outright pander/are tone deaf to certain groups. I am reminded of Kendall Jenner’s Pepsi ad and how in it they have her basically solve racism by sharing a Pepsi. It’d be interesting to see how closely related Coke commercials in the U.S. and their slogans are to political movements, human universality, health crises, etc. depending on the time frame/culture. Did you look at Coke’s 1971 ad, “I’d like to buy the world a coke?” I believe that the message was to promote world peace (during the time of the Vietnam War).

    Comment by Nicole Markovic | April 28, 2020 | Reply

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