In the summer of 2008, Dee Jadnik-Plott and her husband, Dave Plott, were walking through North Wilkesboro, a small mountain town in the northwest corner of North Carolina, when they spotted an old A vintage Coca-Cola machine in San Diego, Calif.
And then an idea was born to do something more.
Using a GPS (global positioning satellite) device, they noted the store’s coordinates. By itself, that was nothing unusual for the couple. They had already been deeply involved in the GPS-based hobbies of geocaching and waymarking, the modern versions of treasure hunting and trail marking, for several years. Their photo of the sign, along with information about its location, became the basis for the Coca-Colamemorabilia category they initiated on Waymarking.com, which catalogs locations, known as waymarks, in more than 1,000 categories.
The Coke category went live in August 2008, and six and a half years later, Dee and Dave – participating under the username “Macleod1” – remain among the six officers responsible for monitoring it and approving new entries. As 2014 came to a close, the Coca-Cola Memorabilia category had nearly 300 waymarks posted by about 110 category members from around the world. Many of the waymarks are old Coke signs, including “ghost signs,” the faded remnants of decades-old advertising murals painted on the sides of buildings. More examples include Coke cracker barrels and vending machines.
“This category began as an idea to see just how many different kinds of Coke memorabilia there are throughout not only the U.S., but around the world,” says Jadnik-Plott.
For those not familiar, waymarking and geocaching are activities anyone can enjoy with the use of a GPS-enabled device. Geocaching got its start in May 2000, when the U.S. government turned off “selective availability,” improving accuracy of GPS navigation for civilians to within six to 20 feet.
A vintage Coca-Cola machine in San Diego, Calif.
From this new outdoor recreation company and website, Groundspeak Inc., emerged in Seattle to develop location-based adventure activities. Groundspeak launched Waymarking.com in 2005. Quite different from geocaching, waymarking is essentially posting locations you would like to share with others to discover.
“Waymarks are community sourced points of interest that allow people to discover and contribute to the continuing history of a location,” says Eric Schudiske, PR/special media manager for Groundspeak. “It’s taking to people to places they might not otherwise visit."
At the end of 2014, Waymarking.com listed 600,000 waymarks throughout the world, grouped into more than 1,000 categories, according to Schudiske. He reports that the growth in global popularity is accelerating.
“We hit 500,000 waymarks in September 2013 and have added another 100,000 since,” he adds.
Schudiske described the Coca-Cola memorabilia category as an ideal fit for the Waymarking.com mission. “It’s such a recognizable and relatable logo and symbol,” he says. “It’s global, and it’s also nostalgia. You can wander into an old town or along a back road and see the familiar face of the Coca-Cola sign sort of peek out and say ‘hi’ to you."
Waymarking is not meant as a marketing channel, however. Guidelines for the Coca-Cola memorabilia category, for example, prohibit current products and signage. Schudiske acknowledges that line.
“Other corporate entities play a cultural role, rather than a commercial role,” he says. “That’s part of the Geocaching ethos as well.”
Anyone can join Waymarking by starting a free account and then begin submitting waymark candidates in any category. A premium account ($30 per year) enables members to create and manage categories and participate in peer review.
A Coca-Cola sign in Santa Cruz, Calif.
“Our turnaround times vary from a few minutes to a few hours, unless it is up for review,” she says. “Any of the officers can call a vote to get the group opinion on whether a submission follows all guidelines. With Coca-Cola, the most common issue is whether it is older memorabilia or newer.”
You can find Coca-Cola waymarks in your area by entering your zip code on Waymarking.com. Then, download the waymark’s file, which includes GPS coordinates, to a smartphone or GPS unit and go searching for it. For a day’s activity, you can click the “scavenger hunt” tab on the site to automatically cluster waymarks in an area you choose either by GPS coordinates, location name or zip code.
Jadnik-Plott, together with her husband, is the leader of 10 Waymarking categories, including Coca-Cola memorabilia, and participates in numerous others. She suggests that small towns are often fertile grounds for waymarking and recommends the activity as a family travel game.
“Our grandchildren love it,” she says. “It takes you to places that you have overlooked before, and you meet lots of different people from all walks of life, all ages.”
A Coca-Cola sign in Santa Cruz, Calif.