After several months of internal reviews, new Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) CEO Neville Isdell came out with projections for growth in earnings and case volume at the venerable soft drink company that were sharply lower than those previously anticipated. Isdell says that the company anticipates unit growth of 3% to 4% over the next few years, with earnings growth in the high single digits.

When I say "previously anticipated," it's probably more accurate to say "previously voiced," as almost no one who followed the company closely thought that it would stick with the 11%-to-12% earnings growth targets that previous management had put in place. Still, the extent of the degradation came as a bit of a shock.

With this move, I see eerie parallels between Coke's present position and that of two other stalwarts from two years ago: Home Depot (NYSE:HD), and more specifically, McDonald's (NYSE:MCD), which is Coke's largest customer. Both had gone through some severe missteps, then made management changes to refocus the company. Both McDonald's and Home Depot have enjoyed smashing rebounds from the point where many (but not all) observers were writing them off as has-beens.

In fact, one of Isdell's first priorities fits directly into this model. Just as Home Depot and McDonald's had suffered from tin-eared marketing campaigns, Coke's branding efforts have really suffered. Quick! What is the current Coca-Cola jingle? "Coke and a smile?" "Coke is it!" "I'd like to teach the world to sing?" Whatever it is, it's forgettable. To that end, Isdell has pledged that the company would increase its spending on product development and marketing by as much as $400 million annually, beginning next year. McDonald's went from its torpid "Smile" campaign (along with dozens of localized ones) to "I'm Lovin' It," which has reinvigorated its branding not only in the U.S. but also worldwide.

Just so, Coca-Cola has trended away from global campaigning, leaving the company's most powerful products with weakened brand identities. Coca-Cola is a global company, and Coke is a global product. Isdell seems clear on the fact that a coordinated marketing message across borders -- similar to McDonald's "ich liebe es," "c'est tout ce que j'aime" and so on -- will be beneficial. And like McDonald's, Coke depends on a franchise network to distribute its products, in this case bottlers including Coca-Cola FEMSA (NYSE:KOF), Coca-Cola Hellenic (NYSE:CCH), and Coca-Cola Enterprises (NYSE:CCE). These relationships are strained in the same exact way that McDonald's were with their franchisers. Again, here, looking at what McDonald's and Home Depot did should be instructive: They didn't continue to speak of high-growth pie-in-the-sky projections; they slashed predictions, and they went about healing the little problems that had developed over time.

That Isdell seems to be going the same route at this point is very promising. If anything, Coke's network is more complicated than those of the other two companies, but the problems it faces are similar. By recognizing that its path to regaining its footing is not in top-line growth but in bottom-line excellence, Coke is starting the transition in self-identification from being a fast grower to being a cash machine. There's a long way to go, but Coke, more than nearly any other company in the world, has the core brand power that allows it to find its footing without putting the entire enterprise at risk.

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Bill Mann owns none of the companies mentioned in this article. He notes wryly that Coca-Cola now has a dividend yield of 2.4%, the highest he ever remembers seeing for the company. Interested in dividends? Take a free trial of Mathew Emmert's excellent guide to income-paying stocks. It's called, get this, the Motley Fool Income Investor.