Step into the new World of Coca-Cola when it opens next summer, and you'll quickly understand why the beverage giant is considered one of the globe's greatest marketing companies.
The first thing visitors will do — must do — is sit through a promo showcasing the company's products and its reach around the world. Only after the pre-show will they gain entry to the rest of the museum, designed to celebrate the company's founding from a chemical "oops" in an Atlanta drugstore to a global powerhouse.
New World of Coca-Cola
• Sampling of global products
• 53,000 square feet of visitor areas
• 93,000 square feet overall
• Estimated 90-minute tour per visitor
• Projected 1 million visitors annually
• Interactive exhibits
Existing World of Coca-Cola
• Sampling of global products
• 23,000 square feet of visitor areas
• 45,000 square feet overall
• Average 45-minute tour per visitor
• Average 750,000 visitors annually
The new entry design is one of a number of changes Atlanta-based Coca-Cola has up its sleeve for its updated museum, which is now under construction downtown across from the Georgia Aquarium and Centennial Olympic Park.
The company recently released details of the new building, estimated to cost $97 million. The new museum will lose the cube shape of its predecessor, which opened in 1990, and will double the size of the current building.
The new World of Coca-Cola will feature contemporary glass-and-stainless steel architectural design on one side, dominated by a 27-foot "frosted" replica of its famous contoured bottle encased in a 90-foot glass cylinder. The other side will be traditional, so much so that it looks as if it could be part of another building. A glass window will display a smaller version of the lighted, trademarked Coca-Cola swoosh featured in the current building near Underground Atlanta.
Visitors can expect more samples — from water to juices to teas — at the popular serving stations where guests taste the variations of Coke around the world. Displays will be more interactive to better engage the iPod and Xbox generation, while events tied to some of the company's biggest promotional partners like NASCAR and the NCAA might find their way inside.
And displays will be changed to update the public on the company's latest offerings, offering the company the chance to spotlight products like its recently announced coffee drink, Coca-Cola Blak.
It's a plan the company hopes will keep the World of Coca-Cola a top Atlanta attraction and better reflect its place in the 21st century, said Haven Riviere, vice president and general manager of the new World of Coca-Cola.
"While we are really proud of the existing World of Coca-Cola, the fact is the company has changed significantly and is in the midst of even more change," he said. "We celebrated one major brand when the original World of Coke opened. Today we have over 400 brands around the world."
Coke announced plans to move the museum from its current home shortly after the aquarium project was unveiled in 2002. Coca-Cola donated part of the 20 acres it began acquiring around the 1996 Summer Olympics to the aquarium with plans to build next door.
The aquarium has taken off since it opened in November, drawing more than 1.5 million visitors. It has joined the expanded High Museum of Art, Atlantic Station and Imagine It, the children's museum of Atlanta, in what city boosters tout as a destination critical mass.
The current World of Coca-Cola building is being sold to the state for $1.1 million, which Coke said is well below its appraised value. The state hasn't yet determined how it will use the building.
The World of Coca-Cola, which now charges $9 for an adult ticket, draws an average 750,000 visitors a year. Officials expect the new museum, with a still undetermined ticket price, will increase visitation to at least 1 million.
One reason is that the new museum will open with a specific marketing mission, unlike its predecessor, Riviere said.
"When we made the decision to open up the existing World of Coke in the early 1990s it was really because we were getting people coming to our corporate headquarters, knocking on our front door wanting to see artifacts and some of the heritage pieces," he said.
Since then the company has discovered the museum's power as a marketing tool, Riviere said.
The new building will feature exhibits that are less static and a layout that improves the flow of activities, Riviere said. For instance, visitors will be able to go to any of the 19 exhibits after the pre-show film. In the current building, visitors follow Coke's chronology, beginning with exhibits on the third floor and working their way down to the first.
The new building also is designed to increase how much time visitors spend there. When the current museum opened 16 years ago, visitors spent as much as 90 minutes wandering through the displays. Today, they finish in 40 minutes, said Humberto Garcia-Sjogrim, marketing director for the museum.
"The way we absorb information has changed in the last 15 years," he said. "People no longer have the patience, the tolerance — whatever it might be — to read all those exhibits. The building was designed appropriately for its time, but we're in a different time today."
At twice the size of its current building, the new World of Coca-Cola will devote more than three times the space it now allots to visitors — from 20,000 square feet to 60,000. It will include about 4.5 acres of outdoor space, including a large lawn, a reflecting pool, and a plaza shared with the aquarium that will pay tribute to Coke inventor John Pemberton — "probably a bronze statue or something of that nature," Riviere said.
"Part of the plan for the new World of Coca-Cola is to be able to continually refresh it," he said. "Not just within a calendar year, but anytime."