Finally the Coca-Cola board had had enough and decided to bring back the old Coke. Company president Donald Keough revealed years later, in the documentary The People vs. Coca-Cola executives announced the return of the original formula during the afternoon of July 11, 78 days after New Coke's introduction. On the floor of the U. Senate , David Pryor called the reintroduction "a meaningful moment in U.
The new product continued to be sold and retained the name Coca-Cola until , when it was renamed Coke II , so the original formula was renamed Coca-Cola Classic also called Coke Classic , and for a short period it was referred to by the public as Old Coke. 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.
This was true for a few regions, because Coca-Cola Classic differed from the original formula in that all bottlers who hadn't already done so were using high fructose corn syrup instead of cane sugar to sweeten the drink, though most had by this time. Gay Mullins, founder of the organization Old Cola Drinkers of America which had lobbied Coca-Cola to either reintroduce the old formula or sell it to someone else , was given the first case of Coca-Cola Classic.
Six months after the rollout, Coke's sales had increased at more than twice the rate of Pepsi's. New Coke's sales dwindled to a three percent share of the market, although it was selling quite well in Los Angeles and some other key markets. The Coca-Cola Company spent a considerable amount of time trying to figure out where it had made a mistake, ultimately concluding that it had underestimated the public reaction of the portion of the customer base that would be alienated by the switch.
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. While that has become conventional wisdom in the ensuing years, some analyses have suggested otherwise. This populist version of the story served Coke's interests, however, as the episode did more to position and define Coca-Cola as a brand embodying values distinct from Pepsi than any deliberate effort to do so probably could have done.
While in the short term the fiasco led Bill Cosby to end his long time advertising for Coke, claiming his commercials that praised the superiority of the new formula had hurt his credibility, no one at Coca-Cola was fired or otherwise held responsible for what is still widely perceived as a misstep, for the simple reason that it ultimately wasn't.
When Goizueta died in , the company's share price was well above what it was when he had taken over 16 years earlier and its position as market leader even more firmly established. Yes, it infuriated the public, cost us a ton of money and lasted for only 77 days before we reintroduced Coca-Cola Classic.
Still, New Coke was a success because it revitalized the brand and reattached the public to Coke. New Coke continued to do what it had originally been designed to do: In , The Wall Street Journal surveyed 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.
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. Goizueta claimed that he never once regretted the decision. He even threw a tenth anniversary party for New Coke in and continued to drink it until his death in In the short run, the reintroduction of original Coca-Cola saved Coke's sales figures and brought it back in the good graces of many customers and bottlers.
Phone calls and letters to the company were as joyful and thankful as they had been angry and depressed. But confusion reigned at the company's marketing department, which had to formulate a plan to market two Coca-Colas where such plans were inconceivable just a few months before. Coca-Cola Classic did not need much help, with a "Red, White and You" campaign showcasing the American virtues many of those who had clamored for its reintroduction had pointedly reminded the company that it embodied.
But the company was at a loss to sell what was now just "Coke". Marketers fumbled for a strategy for the rest of the year. At the beginning of , however, Coke's marketing team found a strategy by returning to one of their original motives for changing the formula: Max Headroom , the purportedly computer-generated media personality played by Matt Frewer , was chosen to replace Cosby as the spokesman for Coke's new "Catch the Wave" campaign.
With his slicked-back hair and sunglasses, he was already known to much of the U. 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! The campaign was a huge success, and surveys likewise showed that more than three-quarters of the target market were aware of the ads within two days.
Coke's corporate hotline received more calls about Max than any previous spokesperson, some even asking if he had a girlfriend. In , New Coke was sold only in the United States, United States territories , and Canada while the original formula continued to be sold in the rest of the world. New Coke was eventually returned to the company's product portfolio; it was test-marketed in certain U. Filmmaker Miranda July is said to have suggested the name of Coke II while working as a tastemaker for an ad agency.
However, the Coca-Cola company did little to promote or otherwise distinguish it. In a market already offering several choices of drinks calling themselves "Coke" in some fashion or another, the public saw little reason to embrace a product they had firmly rejected seven years earlier, and within about a year, Coke II was largely off the American shelves again.
By , it could only be found in a few scattered markets in the northwest , midwest and some overseas. In July , Coca-Cola announced that it would be discontinued entirely. On August 16, , Coca-Cola announced a change of the label 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. New Coke had the spotlight for only three months in , but it casts a long shadow, in both the business world and popular culture that can still be seen.
It is most frequently mentioned as a cautionary tale among businesses against tampering too extensively with a well-established and successful brand. Coke II still gets an admirable amount of ink.
Evolution, Extinction and Economics by Paul Ormerod , that dealt with it at some length, as well as two recent mentions in Forbes and Sports Illustrated. Within Coca-Cola, the role the company's bottlers had played in forcing its hand led executives to create a new subsidiary, Coca-Cola Enterprises , which bought out several of the larger bottlers and placed distribution and marketing efforts more tightly under Coca-Cola's control.
The Coca-Cola Company's apparently sudden reversal on New Coke led to several rumors and conspiracy theories that have circulated in the years since to explain how a company with the resources and experience of Coca-Cola could have made such an obvious and colossal blunder.
In his book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking , Malcolm Gladwell relates his conversations with market researchers in the food industry who put most of the blame for the failure of New Coke on the flawed nature of taste tests. They claim most are subject to systematic biases.
Tests such as the Pepsi Challenge were "sip tests", meaning that drinkers were given small samples less than a can or bottle's worth to try. Gladwell contends that what people say they like in these tests may not reflect what they actually buy to drink at home over several days. Coke, on the other hand, may be more attractive for drinking in volume, because it is less sweet.
A more comprehensive testing regimen could possibly have revealed this, Gladwell's sources believe. 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 s: 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.
It was therefore, in their opinion, a mistake to focus solely on the product and its taste. Coke considered but rejected gradually changing the drink's flavor incrementally, without announcing they were doing so. Executives feared the public would notice and exaggerate slight differences in taste. In , Joel Dubow, a professor of food marketing at St.
Joseph's University , tested this "flavor balance hypothesis" and argued that it was not true. He and fellow researcher Nancy Childs tested mixtures of Coca-Cola Classic and Coke II and found that the gradual changes of taste were not noticed by a significant number of tasters.
Coke, he said, would have succeeded had it chosen this strategy. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved March 16, The Wall Street Journal.
The Verdict Is Still Out". The New York Times. Retrieved April 8, Retrieved October 10, For God, Country and Coca-Cola: American Jewish Historical Society.
New Coke 20 Years Later Archived from the original on December Retrieved June 16, The People vs Coke. Retrieved November 19, The Other Guy Blinked: How Pepsi Won the Cola Wars. Retrieved June 14, Introduction to Statistical Reasoning. The Max Headroom Chronicles. Retrieved December 14, Log In Store Help.
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