[22], Goizueta claimed that he never once regretted the decision to change Coca-Cola. Six months after the rollout, Coke's sales had increased at more than twice the rate of Pepsi's. [26], On August 16, 2002, The Coca-Cola Company announced a change of the label of Coke Classic in which the word "Classic" was no longer so prominent, leading to speculation that it would eventually be removed and the last traces of New Coke eliminated. Coke, he said, would have succeeded had it chosen this strategy. It was also available in select vending machines in cities such as New York and Los Angeles.[30]. [34], Coke considered but rejected gradually changing the drink's flavor incrementally, without announcing they were doing so. While they had given Goizueta a standing ovation when he announced the change at an April 22 bottlers' meeting at Atlanta's Woodruff Arts Center, glad the company had finally taken some initiative in the face of Pepsi's advances,[12] they were less enthusiastic about the taste. It was such an immediate failure that the day New Coke was announced, Pepsi gave their employees the day off. [26] In 2009, Coca-Cola permanently removed "Classic" from its North American packaging. Goizueta, Coca-Cola's CEO, described the new flavor as "bolder", "rounder", and "more harmonious",[8]:352 and defended the change by saying that the drink's secret formula was not sacrosanct and inviolable. Some who tasted the reintroduced formula were not convinced that the first batches really were the same formula that had supposedly been retired that spring. Allowing itself to be portrayed as a somewhat clueless large corporation forced to withdraw from a big change by overwhelming public pressure flattered customers, as Keough put it, "We love any retreat which has us rushing toward our best customers with the product they love the most. [10]:149–151 But executives were uncertain of how international markets would react. This would not emerge for several years afterward, however, and in the meantime the public simply concluded that the company had, as Keough suggested, failed to consider the public's attachment to the idea of what Coke's old formula represented. However, within a few days of traditional Coke being withdrawn and replaced by “new” Coke, there was a backlash from consumers and the media and their brand image was damaged. When this group was given a chance to try all three in a blind test, New Coke slightly edged out Pepsi, but many drinkers reacted angrily to finding they had chosen a brand other than their favorite. This was true for a few regions, because Coca-Cola Classic differed from the original formula in that all bottlers who had not already done so were using high fructose corn syrup instead of cane sugar to sweeten the drink, though most had by this time. The marketing had worked and 80% of people polled were aware of the New Coke. [25], The Coca-Cola Company did practically nothing to promote or otherwise distinguish it. The biggest backfire: New Coke "tasted more like Pepsi" according to the History Channel. But only in small doses. "The Coca-Cola matching with the coffee, just such an easy combination, you taste both of it. But the company was at a loss to sell what was now just "Coke". [10]:163, They were, nonetheless, joined by some voices from outside the region. “Some cynics say that we planned the whole thing,” Keough said. 7 years ago. The time-tested adage appears to be the lesson from Coca-Cola’s disastrous introduction of “New Coke." history". This research, called "Project Kansas", took its name from a photo of Kansas journalist William Allen White drinking a Coke; the image had been used extensively in Coca-Cola advertising and hung on several executives' walls. [32], Gladwell reports that other market researchers have criticized Coke for not realizing that much of its success as a brand came from what they call sensation transference, a phenomenon first described by marketer Louis Cheskin in the late 1940s: tasters unconsciously add their reactions to the drink's packaging into their assessment of the taste. [6] Coca-Cola's director of corporate communications, Carlton Curtis, realized over time that consumers were more upset about the withdrawal of the old formula than the taste of the new one. In 1987, The Wall Street Journal surveyed 100 randomly selected cola drinkers, the majority of whom indicated a preference for Pepsi, with Classic Coke accounting for the remainder save two New Coke loyalists. This seemed to be confirmed by the success of Diet Coke which was closer to Pepsi in terms of flavour. ", Some Coca-Cola executives had quietly been arguing for a reintroduction of the old formula as early as May. Never did its market research testers ask subjects how they would feel if the new formula replaced the old one. [7]:118, Gay Mullins, a Seattle retiree looking to start a public relations firm with $120,000 of borrowed money, formed the organization Old Cola Drinkers of America on May 28 to lobby Coca-Cola to either reintroduce the old formula or sell it to someone else. [7]:119[12], Coca-Cola introduced the new formula with marketing pushes in New York, where workers renovating the Statue of Liberty for its 1986 centenary were given cans,[12] and Washington, D.C., where thousands of cans were given away in Lafayette Park. [8]:355, The surveys, which were given more significance by standard marketing procedures of the era, were less negative than the taste tests and were key in convincing management to change the formula in 1985, to coincide with the drink's centenary. "The simple fact is that all the time and money and skill poured into consumer research on the new Coca-Cola could not measure or reveal the deep and abiding emotional attachment to original Coca-Cola felt by so many people. What did New Coke taste like? [4][5] When Roberto Goizueta became Coca-Cola CEO in 1980, he told employees there would be no "sacred cows" in how the company did business, including how it formulated its drinks. [5] A psychiatrist whom Coke had hired to listen in on calls told executives that some people sounded as if they were discussing the death of a family member. [8]:362 Goizueta's father expressed similar misgivings to his son, who later recalled that it was the only time his father had agreed with Castro, whose rule he had fled Cuba to avoid. Still, New Coke was a success because it revitalized the brand and reattached the public to Coke. The company had commissioned nearly 200,000 taste tests of the new recipe. [32]:163 In Coke's case, it is alleged that buyers, subject to sensation transference, were also "tasting" the red color of the container and distinctive Coca-Cola script. he asked. Had it been an opera, the Lincoln Center performance would have been a tragedy to devoted fans of Coke’s original formula. A year later they had arrived at New Coke. The press conference at New York City's Lincoln Center to introduce the new formula did not go well. Many reported that some acquaintances and even friends and relatives had ostracized them, or had expressed displeasure in other emotionally hurtful ways. Bright yellow stickers indicating the change were placed on the cartons of multi-packs. The new Coke would have a smoother, sweeter taste -- similar to Diet Coke, but sweetened with corn syrup. Their presence in focus groups tended to negatively skew results as they exerted indirect peer pressure on other participants. New Coke Is Back! Coca-Cola’s disastrous attempt at rebranding Coke in 1985 delivered a painful lesson: Don't mess with a classic. Facing a growing dilemma, there was a knee-jerk reaction to alter the traditional recipe, one which tens of millions of loyal customers had grown to love, and plan ahead for a successful … glass bottle of original Coca-Cola. About 10–12% of testers felt angry and alienated at the thought, and said they might stop drinking Coke altogether. It was renamed Coke II in 1992,[1] and was discontinued in July 2002. It would be still be called Coca-Cola, but this “New Coke” would taste better and people would love it. In that capacity, he had improved sales by tweaking the drink's flavor slightly, so he was receptive to the idea that changes to the taste of Coke could lead to increased profits. Coke had steadily been losing ground to Pepsi and by the early 1980s, taste tests done by Coca-Cola and Pepsi showed that most people tested preferred Pepsi over Coke. NEW COKE® IS BACK! Company president Donald Keough revealed years later, in the documentary The People vs. Coke (2002), that they realized this was the only right thing to do when they visited a small restaurant in Monaco and the owner proudly said they served "the real thing, it's a real Coke", offering them a chilled ​6 1⁄2 oz. Since its introduction in 1886, Coca-Cola’s secret recipe had been tweaked several times—such as when changing sweeteners from cane sugar to beet sugar to corn syrup—but its taste had remained constant. Though New Coke had won out in taste tests, Coca-Cola didn't take into account people's loyalty to the familiar taste they'd been drinking for decades. Bottlers, particularly in the South, were also tired of facing personal opprobrium over the change. After World War II, Coca-Cola held 60% of the market share. New Coke was eventually returned to the company's product portfolio; it was test-marketed in certain U.S. cities under the name Coke II in 1990,[1] which was taken national in late 1992, despite the company's original intention not to create a second brand. The third season of the show takes place in 1985. Rather than divide its market share between two sugar sodas, Coca-Cola discontinued its 99-year classic recipe and locked Formula 7x away in an Atlanta bank vault with the intention that it never again see the light of day. How the ‘Blood Feud’ Between Coke and Pepsi Escalated During the 1980s Cola Wars, How McDonald's Beat Its Early Competition and Became a Fast Food Icon, Watch full episodes of Eating History online. Phone calls and letters to the company were as joyful and thankful as they had been angry and depressed. The cans of Coke Zero Sugar promise a “new and improved taste”—but does it deliver? No one at Coca-Cola was fired or otherwise held responsible for what is still widely perceived as a mistake, for the simple reason that it ultimately wasn't. They claim most are subject to systematic biases. "[8]:360 Bottles and cans continued to bear the "Coca-Cola Classic" title until January 2009, when the company announced it would stop printing the word "Classic" on the labels of 16-US-fluid-ounce (470 ml) bottles sold in parts of the southeastern United States. 15:02. Within weeks of the announcement, the company was fielding 5,000 angry phone calls a day. The campaign was launched with a television commercial produced by McCann Erickson New York, with Max saying in his trademark stutter, "C-c-c-catch the wave!" In fact, our tasters felt the taste of New Coke was much more similar to Diet Coke than to Coca-Cola Classic or Coca-Cola Zero Sugar, which might be why … It was renamed Coke II in 1992, and was discontinued in July 2002. For the wrestling tournament, see, "Roger Enrico, the president of Pepsi-Cola U.S.A., was quick to proclaim the 10-week-old new Coke "the Edsel of the 80's", CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (, CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, "New Coke vs. Classic: The Verdict Is Still Out", "The Real Lesson of New Coke: The Value of Focus Groups for Predicting the Effects of Social Influence", "Coca Cola's Big Mistake: New Coke 20 Years Later ...", "IDEAS & TRENDS - Coca-Cola Swallows Its Words", "Highlights in the History of Coca-Cola Television Advertising", "Coca-Cola Deleting 'Classic' From Coke Label", "Where are the last few cans of New Coke? Many of these drinkers were Southerners, some of whom considered Coca-Cola a fundamental part of their regional identity. To hear some tell it, April 23, 1985, was a day that will live in marketing infamy ... spawning consumer angst the likes of which no business has ever seen. 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