New Coke (Coca-Cola, 1985)
In 1985, Coca-Cola decided to reformulate its flagship soft drink and dubbed it “New Coke.” The New Coke originally didn’t have a separate name until 1992 when it was renamed Coke II. New Coke was always known as “the new taste of Coca-Cola.” The public did not respond positively, no matter what Coke it was called. It remains one of the biggest marketing failures. (The new taste of Coke was scrapped entirely, for good, in 2002). So why change what wasn’t broke?
According to sales, Coke was broken. After WWII Coke was flying high with a 60% market share. But by 1983, it was only pulling in 24%. Pepsi had begun to outsell Coke in supermarkets and Coke was only staying afloat from their vending machines and syrup machines at fast food restaurants. New Coke was a sweeter version of the original Coke that was to appeal to youngsters, who overwhelmingly preferred the sweeter Pepsi. Early taste tests with consumers were positive. Coke management briefly considered — but ultimately rejected — marketing the new formula as a new flavor. New Coke was introduced April 23, 1985 and the original formulation of Coke ceased production that same week.
Initially, most consumers actually liked the new formulation and had no problem with it whatsoever. The biggest and most vocal opponents came from the south, where Coke is headquartered (in Atlanta). The movement grew and Pepsi was quick to get in with its own advertising jabs. Less than 3 months later, on July 11, the original Coke returned, dubbed Coke Classic. Moral of the story: Coke did learn not to mess with something that wasn’t “broken” — at least in this case.