You shouldn’t like things because people tell you you’re supposed to.
The year is 1985, Pepsi-Cola is slowly over taking Coca-Cola as Americas favourite cola flavoured refreshment. In a time where cola drinks are now battling the meteoric rise of diet soft drinks as well as other flavours of soft drink, the stakes were the highest they’d ever been to come out on top.
The reason Pepsi-Cola was winning the race at the beginning of 1985 was because consumers preferred the sweeter taste over Coca-Cola. In April 1985 Coca-Colas answer to this was ‘New Coke’, a new formulation which entered the marketplace under a new brand name of ‘Coke’, replacing the familiar script Coca-Cola and wave graphic. Following a huge marketing push for New Coke in New York and Washington there was initially positive feedback and the sales figures reflected this. Most consumers in the big cities liked the new taste, the problem however lay in the southeast where Coca-Cola was first bottled.
Despite the initial positive feedback from the small number of consumers who were affected by the marketing push, the negative feedback started pouring in. Coca-Cola HQ received over 40,000 calls and letters, it went as far as a psychiatrist whom Coca-Cola had hired to listen in on the complaint calls described some of the callers sounding like they were discussing the death of a family member. Coca Cola even faced backlash from it’s bottling plants, they used to sell a product that had been marketed as ‘The real thing’ which had passed through the years unchanged, now they were angry they were pedalling an inferior product that went against the very message that Coca-Cola had wanted to portray to the consumer.
Pepsi-Cola were smart enough to jump on the hate Coca Cola were receiving and released their own advertising where a first time Pepsi drinker taunted Coke. Pepsi-Cola had a big sales gain following the backlash against New Coke, however due to Coca-Colas reaction the gain didn’t translate into a long term increase in their customer base.
Coca-Cola quickly established people weren’t angry about the New Coke, they were angry the old Coca-Cola brand and taste had been completely replaced. This led to an announcement which came 79 days after New Cokes initial release. All of the above led to the reintroduction of Coca-Colas original recipe under the rebranded name of ‘Coca-Cola Classic’ in July 1985. The reintroduction of the consumers ‘old friend’ was met with joy and thanks in equal measure to the hate they had previously received over it’s removal.
New Coke continued to be sold alongside the old recipe until 1992 when it was renamed ‘Coke II’, eventually being discontinued in 2002, largely due to conflicting marketing campaigns and other problems that came with selling 2 rival products, 1 of which was a beloved brand that was performing really well, the other, a product that was shunned by the masses and was clinging on for dear life.
Now in 2019 as many people in the design world know, Coca-Cola as a brand, has, for the most part, remained relatively unchanged, the brand Coca-Cola has built and the mistakes they have learned from (We’re looking at you New Coke) have led to one of the most successful companies on the planet today. They are in fact big enough (And bold enough) to be reintroducing ‘New Coke’ as a promotional product to run alongside the release of the hit TV show Stranger Things season 3, this season of the show is set in 1985 and New Coke is destined to feature in the show.
It’s a bold move for a Coca-Cola, they are embracing the new world we live in where traditional media and the way we advertise products is evolving faster than ever. Streaming is becoming more popular by the day and traditional tv adverts are inevitably being affected by this. Is this new interactive and immersive form of advertising the future for big brand success? Only time will tell, for now, keep your eyes peeled when watching stranger things this July and if you’re lucky enough to get your hands on a can let us know what you think on social media!