It's hard to believe, but Coca-Cola Zero officially turned 10 earlier this month. When the zero-calorie cola debuted in June 2005, it became The Coca-Cola Company’s most successful new product launch since Diet Coke in 1982.

The origins of Coke Zero can be traced back to the late 1990s, when the search for a next-generation, no-calorie Coca-Cola began. Coke’s portfolio lacked a low-calorie sparkling option for younger males who, for the most part, wanted real Coca-Cola taste with zero calories and a brand they could call their own.

Coke Zero would eventually offer the best of both worlds. In 2007, AOL named Coke Zero the second-hottest product of the year, behind the iPhone, and the brand is currently sold in 159 countries. 

Here are 10 fun Coke Zero tidbits from its first decade on the market:

Coke’s R&D team spent years testing and tweaking the Coke Zero formula, experimenting to make it as Coke-like as possible.

Speed was of the essence, but getting the product right and achieving a breakthrough in taste technology was priority one. The R&D team wanted to formulate a zero-calorie cola that "punched up above its weight class", according to one senior executive. An earlier version of Coke Zero was introduced in the Nordics as Coca-Cola Light in 2001. 

Some of the first bottles of Coke Zero were sold on eBay in April 2005. 

A few months before its official launch in the U.S., a sample pack featuring six unique bottles of Coke Zero and limited-edition premiums was sold in an online auction, with all proceeds going to charity. The stunt helped generate strong buzz about the new product.

Coca-Cola C2

A mid-calorie cola called C2 tentatively tabled the Coke Zero launch.

C2 debuted with great fanfare in Japan, followed by the United States, with the promise of half the sugar, calories and carbs as Coca-Cola. But the brand eventually fizzled with consumers. Although C2 was not the smash hit Coke hoped for, it yielded valuable insights and gave the company a springboard to launch Coke Zero.

Coke Zero

Coke Zero debuted in the U.S. in white packaging.

When Coke Zero premiered in the U.S. in June 2005, it was not an overnight success. The brand was promoted initially with the “Everybody Chill” tagline, which confused some consumers. Coke Zero debuted in white cans and bottles to help the brand stand out on store shelves. Many young males – the target demographic – associated the white labels with feminine-leaning diet drinks. Coke Zero needed a more masculine look and message.

Coca-Cola New Zealand pioneered the black packaging Coke Zero is known for.

A few months after the U.S. launch, Coca-Cola South Pacific introduced Coke Zero in black cans to appeal to (mostly young male) fans of the All Blacks, New Zealand’s national rugby team. The team unveiled the brand in both white and black cans and let consumers pick a favorite. The black can won in a landslide. Packaging wasn’t the only thing Australia got right. An innovative online teaser and guerilla marketing campaign called the “Zero Movement” generated a strong pre-launch buzz. And Coca-Cola Australia purchased a massive “roadblock” – simultaneous airtime on public TV networks and cable channels plus an overnight out-of-home blitz – to premiere Coke Zero’s first commercial on Australia Day in January 2006. The strategy paid off. Coke Zero – dubbed “Bloke Coke” due to its focus on young males – sold more than three times its target number of cases in its first year. The U.S. quickly took note, switching to black packaging during the holiday season and adopting more literal tagline: “Real Coca-Cola Taste and Zero Calories.”

Humorous, irreverent advertising has played a role in Coke Zero’s success since the early days.

In a 2006 series of ads titled "Lawyers", imposter Coca-Cola brand managers attempted to recruit real Coke attorneys to sue Coke Zero for “taste infringement” – using an unexpected approach to reinforce the fact that Coke Zero tastes so much like Coke. The mock films were a hit online, prompting Coke Zero to air them on TV and extend the storyline with a series of comedic sequels that communicated the fact Coke Zero tastes like Coca-Cola

The brand made a big splash during the 2009 Big Game...

Mean Troy” Polamalu reprised the 1979 role of “Mean Joe” Greene, who starred in what’s known as one of the greatest “Big Game” ads ever, in a humorous Coke Zero spot. The brand has also built marketing campaigns around several other sports properties, including NASCAR and ESPN College GameDay, and consumer passions like gaming and dance.


…on the big screen…

Coke Zero has partnered with several hit movies over the years, too, including TRON: Legacy (2010), Quantum of Solace (2011) and Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (2011). A robust Coke Zero campaign tied to the epic 2009 adventure film, AVATAR, included an immersive website, augmented reality (AR)-enabled packaging and premium 3D glasses to enhance the fan experience.

…and online.

The brand has used social media to build and entertain a legion of loyal drinkers, while never losing its signature sense of humor. In 2010, the Coke Zero Facial Profiler Facebook app allowed fans to find lookalikes around the world using advanced face detection technology. And a cheeky holiday campaign in 2013 invited tacky sweater aficionados to custom-design the go-to garment of their yuletide ensemble – down to the kitschiest of details – via the Coke Zero Sweater Generator. The 100 top vote-getters received actual hand-stitched sweaters matching their designs. The brand has produced its share of viral videos, too, including a 2012 film associated with the 2012 film, Skyfall, which has been watched more than 11 million times. Coke Zero challenged unsuspecting train passengers in Antwerp, Belgium to “unlock their inner 007 in less than 70 seconds” for their chance to win exclusive tickets to the blockbuster movie. 

Coke Zero Drinkable Billboard

The brand pioneered ‘drinkable’ advertising at the 2015 NCAA Final Four.

A giant “drinkable” billboard and other first-of-their-kind advertising elements gave thirsty college basketball fans the chance to try Coke Zero on the spot in the host city of Indianapolis and across the country. A 26-by-36-ft billboard in White River State Park appeared to magically dispense ice-cold Coke Zero from a massive contour bottle through 4,500 feet of tubing that spelled out “Taste It” before carrying the caramel-colored liquid down to a free sampling station. In addition to the sign, a “drinkable” commercial encouraged viewers at home to use the Shazam app to watch a glass on their mobile device fill up with Coke Zero as it’s poured from a bottle on TV, and drinkable Stadium HD Video Boards in Lucas Oil Stadium and at White River State Park used the same technology, giving thousands of spectators the chance to score a coupon for free Coke Zero during the games and concert.