Christmas mosaics are the latest in a series of Coca-Cola can-stacking creations. One Coca-Cola employee explains how he’s been wowing supermarket shoppers with one-of-a-kind displays... 

A huge Santa Claus beams from the window at Stourbridge Tesco Extra, catching the attention of shoppers as they browse. He’s instantly recognisable, and has a blocky, pixelated look. He’s made entirely from carefully stacked Coca-Cola cans.

The festive mosaic, made from multipacks of Coca-Cola Classic, Coca-Cola Zero Sugar, Sprite Zero, Diet Coke and Caffeine-Free Diet Coke, is the latest in a long line of can-based artworks at the store, ranging from Valentine hearts to Ghostbusters.

So how are they created, and who’s behind all this? We’ve been exploring the story behind the sculptures…

“It works like pixels on a computer screen” 

Artist at work

If you see a man with his shirt-sleeves rolled up stacking packs of Coca-Cola in the window of Stourbridge Tesco Extra, it might well be Mark Cave.

The Senior Account Executive works for Coca-Cola European Partners, the bottler who manufactures and distributes our drinks, but has a great relationship with his retail customers, such as Tesco. Particularly the Tesco Extra in Stourbridge. For a while now he’s been working on a series of can-stacking creations to mark seasonal events like Halloween, Christmas and Euro 2016.

Mark inherited the can mosaic project from his colleague Wendy O’Keefe, who started the ball rolling with Valentine’s Day and Christmas displays in 2015. Since then, he’s really put his energy and inspiration behind it, creating homages to popular movies like Ghostbusters, Batman versus Superman and Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Coca-Cola Mosaic Display Easter Bunnies
Easter Bunnies in 2015

“It’s all about creating theatre,” he explains. “Coca-Cola is always aiming to delight customers, and so is Tesco. So it’s a win-win, really.”

Although he’s a marketer by profession, the can mosaics have brought out Mark’s technical side, as well as his artistic flair. He designs each sculpture and enjoys configuring the multipacks to create the images block by block.

“I’ve been in field sales for a long time, and although my dad’s an engineer, I never got into that kind of work. I did love Space Lego as a child though. Maybe that’s where the skills come from!”

Hand-crafted

As well as creating the designs, Mark physically builds the displays himself, lifting and placing each 8-can pack by hand.

“I do it from start to finish, so I get my hands dirty,” he says. “It’s a lot of lifting and a good workout.  There are about 600 8-pack cases in each one, so quite a few cans there. It’s good fun and I enjoy it.”

Coca-Cola Mosaic Display Ghostbusters
The Ghostbusters Halloween display was made up of Coca-Cola Classic, Coca-Cola Zero Sugar and Diet Coke multipacks

“We want it to be our real product on display.” 

“They need to be paired with displays customers can shop from,” explains Mark. The can walls are rigidly stacked and held in place, but shoppers can grab Coca-Cola drinks from the stacks and shelves close by.”

Cult appeal

The themed can-mosaics have become a bit of a local phenomenon, with the Batman versus Superman designs even featuring in the local press.

Smartphone users have pegged the sculpture as a prime selfie-taking spot.

“We get people taking photos and selfies in front of it, which is great,” says Mark. “We’re starting to generate a little bit of a cult following.”

And a quick scroll through Twitter reveals several admiring comments and photos from people who’ve discovered the displays in store.


Mark’s also had a lot of interest while he’s creating the sculptures. Passing customers often stop and watch him at work, trying to guess what’s in the picture he’s slowly building.

“There was one chap who guessed the Ghostbusters one after only 10 rows,” remembers Mark. “He just got it straight away. I couldn’t believe it!”

"We’re starting to generate a little bit of a cult following.” 

The power of digital

The wall of cans project took on a whole new dimension when Mark found a way to digitise the process, making it easier to build and share designs. The secret? A humble Excel spreadsheet.

 “When we first started doing this, we did it by looking at it and fudging it, gradually building and changing it around on the hoof. But it’s great to do it now on a computer, “ he explains.

“When you’re physically building the display it’s easy to forget where you’re up to. To make life easy for myself, I number the rows and columns in Excel. You can easily count sideways and across to see what colour you need next.”

“Colleagues tend to come to me if they need a design. But I think anybody could do it. The key for me was Excel, which made it a lot easier. The spreadsheet even helps us calculate the stock, so we know how much we need to bring in.”

The digital design also comes in handy for getting plans checked and approved by the store manager and other stakeholders.

“I present the Excel design on my laptop to the store to agree the display. Then when I build it I print out a paper copy to work from.”

Coca-Cola Mosaic Display Superman
A Superman image made out of Coca-Cola Classic, Diet Cokes and Coca-Cola Zero Sugar

Scaling up

The Excel spreadsheet helps Mark see if the design is clear when viewed from a distance – something that’s tricky to do when you’re building the display on the shop floor.

 “It works like pixels on a computer screen.” Mark explains.

“Zoom out from the picture in Excel and you can kind of tell if it’s going to work physically. To really create an impact, the display’s got to be quite a distance from customers as they walk in.

Coca-Cola Mosaic Display Superman
From a distance: shoppers at the Express Checkout get a great view of the display

“We’re lucky with the location of our window, as it’s quite a way from the entrance to the store. People see it from farther away, they’re intrigued, and then they come closer to have a look. It’s also at the foot of a travellator from the upper floor, so people get to see it from above as they’re coming down.”  

Culture of innovation

“We tend to share ideas and inspire each other at Coca-Cola,” says Mark.

“We have an internal social network, as do Tesco. The stores post their displays and they’re shared internally. A couple of people wanted to use the Ghostbusters design in other stores after seeing ours being shared. So there can be inspiration that way.”

It’s all part of a broader culture of creativity and innovation at Coca-Cola worldwide.

“We tend to inspire each other, across the globe. We ran a competition where the European President would travel around and see who could create the best in-store presence. We even built in-store stadiums and things for sporting events.”

“There’s a lot of cross-pollination within Coca-Cola. With all the bottlers around the world there’s a lot of diversity, and that’s all brought together through the company in a really effective way.”

“We tend to share ideas and inspire each other”

A palette of flavours

“We use a mix of Coca-Cola can brands to build the display,” says Mark.

“Black, silver and red are the core colours, but we can potentially do others too – Fanta Orange and Fanta Lemon give us orange and yellow. We’ve not used any of those yet but they’ve been used in other stores. For example, in a can mosaic display for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, there was a Brazilian flag which incorporates some yellow. Sprite or Coca-Cola Life packs are green, so we’ve got those options too.”

Coca-Cola Mosaic Display Euro England Flag
Euro 2016 display, and the flavours that make it up

Worldwide phenomenon

The Stourbridge displays aren’t the first of their kind, but part of a bigger tradition of incorporating actual Coca-Cola products into creative displays around the world.

“There are some incredible things that people do,” says Mark. “I’ve seen amazing freestanding displays in the US and other parts of Europe, created by field sales representatives and retailers.”

Some of the more ambitious displays use dummy boxes – empty packaging that’s light and easy to work with.

“Some packaging, like the UK 12-packs for example, are made of cardboard,” explains Mark, “so you can build empty boxes, then stick them together and make freestanding structures. But we tend to steer clear of that because we want it to be our real product on display.”

Have you spotted any impressive Coca-Cola displays in your area? Let us know! Tweet us @CocaCola_GB

Mark Cave CCEP

Mark Cave is Senior Account Executive at Coca-Cola European Partners.