Junior Benjamin Felix shows off a Diet Coke bottle that reads "Share a Coke with Ben."

So you’re too cool for Coke? Only 33 percent of high schoolers have names featured in popular campaign

As senior Micaela Bennett-Smith made her way through her calculus homework, she pulled out a Diet Coke from her brown paper lunch bag.

Taking her first sip, she glanced at the can and chuckled.

“Give it to me,” senior Ethan Ham demanded, grabbing her wrist.

Bennett-Smith shook her head, laughing.

“You have to give it to me because it even says my name on it,” Ham said.

And indeed on the bottle, in place of the customary Coke logo, it read, “Share a Coke with Ethan.”

Coca-Cola launched the “Share a Coke” campaign in the U.S. this summer. The campaign was first introduced in Australia in 2012. From there, it has spread to 50 other countries.

Coca-Cola created cans and bottles that replaced the Coke logo with 250 of the most popular names amongst teenagers.

In the ‘90s, when Ham was born, Ethan was ranked the 55th most popular name for boys in the U.S, which is why it is one of the 250.

Coca Cola encouraged people to share their experiences with named cans this summer through social media. When someone posted a picture with their “Share a Coke” bottle, they used “#shareacoke.”

Coca-Cola selected the images that stood out to them and used them in billboards or put them on their website.

“I think it’s really cool,” Bennett-Smith said. “When I buy a Coke, I never know what name I’m going to get. And you’re like ‘Hey, I know that name.’”

But Bennett-Smith, who drinks a Diet Coke every day, was disappointed to learn that there were no cans with her own name on them.

Although the names for the bottles were selected based on popular teenage names, 67 percent of SCDS high-school students’ names cannot be found on Coke cans and bottles.

One reason is variant spellings.

Seniors Clare Fina and Lara Kong are among those who have common names with uncommon spellings.

“Anything that has my name on it has an ‘i’ in it,” Fina said. “I consider it to be a different name because (Claire is) not my name.”

Even though she couldn’t get a Coke with her name, Fina did participate in the campaign.

When she was at the airport, her sister saw a bottle with her name, Grace, on it. Fina bought the Coke for her sister, who was absolutely thrilled, she said.

Then there are those students who can’t find their name on a bottle because their names come from different cultures.

Throughout the summer freshman Smita Sikaria saw her friends with “Share a Coke” bottles on various social media sites.

“But my name is never on anything,” Sikaria said.

Juniors Akilan Murugesan and Saachi Sikaria feel similarly.

Although he was unable to get a bottle with his name on it, Murugesan often used the bottles with generic words on them (such as “Family,” “Bestie” or “Grillmaster”) at picnics or potlucks during the summer.

Brooke Wells, head of high school, participated in the "Share a Coke" campaign, purchasing a bottle with "Brooke" written on it.
Photo by Elena Lipman
Brooke Wells, head of high school, participated in the “Share a Coke” campaign, purchasing a bottle with “Brooke” written on it.

So did senior George Cvetich, whose name is on a can.

Cvetich was at a market in Santa Cruz with his brother when he saw Coke cans with “Share a Coke with your bros” written on them.

“We thought it was hilarious,” Cvetich said. “So we had to buy them.”

In fact, Smita, Murugesan and Saachi all have names that are unique in their cultures as well.

“I wouldn’t expect my name to be on a Coke can even if there was a similar campaign in India,” Saachi said.

Senior Skovran Cunningham’s name is a Czech name and, therefore, not part of the campaign either.

However, Cunningham’s name is a common enough name in the Czech Republic that he would expect it to be part of a “Share a Coke” campaign there.

Some students were surprised to learn that their names were not part of the campaign.

Junior Zoe Bowlus considers her name common, since she has met many people named Zoe.

However, the name Zoe gained popularity in the 2000’s. In 2008 it was ranked 58. When Bowlus was born, the name was ranked 179.

“I feel like there are a lot of Zoes in the world right now,” Bowlus said. “But most of the people I know with my name are definitely under 10.”

Junior Aidan Galati’s name, which is not sold on cans and bottles, is also popular amongst younger children. The name jumped from being ranked 311 in the 1990s to 43 in 2005.

Senior Emma Williams bought a bottle with her name three times during the course of the campaign.

“It makes me feel special, even though in reality it’s showing how unspecial I am because so many people have my name that they mass produced it,” Williams said, laughing.

Emma was ranked 56th in the ‘90s, when Emma was born.

Juniors Jacob Durante and Jacob Sands’s names were on Coke cans as well, although neither of them bought one.

Since the name Jacob was ranked the 5th most popular name for boys in the 1990s, both of them have met a lot of Jacobs their age.

Durante enjoys having a common name because it makes it easier for people to pronounce and spell, he said.

But for Sands, the charm of having a popular name has worn off.

“It was a lot cooler meeting someone with the same name until I realized just how many people have the same name,” Sands said.

Sands and sophomore Daniel Hernried (whose name can also be found on Coke cans) both find having common names with people serves as a good conversation starter.

“I just say ‘My name is Daniel, too,’” Hernried said. “And we become best friends.”

Junior Julia Owaidat isn’t as keen on having a common name.

When Owaidat was at a gas station with friends, they noticed the “Share a Coke” cans.

Hers was the only name they could find.

“Sometimes I wish I had an Arabic name,” Owaidat said.

She bought it anyway.

Previously published in the print edition on Sept. 16, 2014.

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