You might not think a little green juice box would inflame the passions of tens of thousands of people around the world. But then again, you'd be underestimating the power of Hi-C Ecto Cooler, which made its triumphant comeback on May 30 after 15 years off the shelf.
A huge reason why Ecto Cooler, which debuted in 1987 through a promotional tie-in withThe Real Ghostbusters (a cartoon version of the popular film), is back in stores is thanks to the dedicated efforts of the drink's fans, who have been campaigning Coca-Cola for years to restore the drink to the Hi-C lineup.
“It's fantastic," Dan Milano said. “It's a huge win. We had 10,000 people on board with this, and it became so much bigger than we ever imagined."
Milano is the administrator of the Resurrect Ecto Cooler Facebook page and a longstanding advocate of the drink. He has spent the last few years as one of the loudest voices in a cacophony of fans lobbying for Ecto Cooler's return, retweeting every mention of the brand via @ResurEctoCooler and showcasing tons of fan-made art, tattoos, t-shirts and photos featuring the long-lost juice.
“There was a deep love out there for Ecto Cooler," Milano said, adding that Chase Doak started the page in 2008. “There were all sorts of really neat tributes. The social media chatter was where it was at, and we started tagging people from the Coke social media team. But it didn't seem like a real thing at all. We were just doing it out of hope."
But there was a precedent for Coca-Cola returning fan favorites to stores. SURGE – which was on the market between 1996 and 2003 – returned to stores in 2014 thanks to the passionate petitioning of The SURGE Movement Facebook community. So while Milano and the Resurrect Ecto Cooler fans may have thought they were operating in a vacuum, marketers at Coke were listening.
“We were 100 percent aware and had noticed for some time the excitement for Ecto Cooler in the world of social media," said Shannon Richmond, brand director, Minute Maid, Coca-Cola North America. “The trends in the marketplace show a lot of passion for nostalgia. We had a unique combination of two longstanding brands that have equity in Ghostbusters and Hi-C. The SURGE relaunch opened our eyes to not only the power of social media, consumers and fans expressing their interest, but also that clear passion for nostalgic products."
But why were people clamoring for this particular product?
“First of all, it's just a tasty juice," said Milano, who works in social media in Washington, D.C. “That's the baseline. If it wasn't good, people wouldn't fight for it. Second, it was on store shelves for so long and then just disappeared. When the Ghostbusters craze died down, Ecto Cooler was the last bastion of a great thing. It was definitely something I missed."
With the Ghostbusters remake hitting theaters on July 15, fans were eager that there might be a tie-in between Coca-Cola and Sony Pictures, and it turned out that Ecto Cooler had a fan in director Paul Feig, who teased the product's return on Twitter in February, the start of a complicated process to get the drink back in stores in time for summer.
“It truly is like a new product launch in many ways even though it used to exist," Richmond said. “We had to make decisions on packaging, graphics and where and how to communicate the launch. All of those decisions are with the fan at heart. We thought, 'What is it that would be doing right by them?' In all of the discussions, we tried to be as authentic as we could to the original Ecto Cooler, making sure it has the same vibrant green color and taste experience that consumers would have had years ago."
Now that their beloved Ecto Cooler is in stores, fans of the juice aren't resting on their accomplishments, as they have created an Ecto Cooler Tracker to let buyers know which stores are stocking the product and continue to spread the word on behalf of the brand to ensure that Ecto Cooler won't leave shelves anytime soon.
“Nobody wants this to be a limited-time release," Milano said. “This film is a beginning for a new generation of Ghostbusters, and if people love the juice, there's no reason it shouldn't stick around. We are going to keep sharing the culture, talking to fans and people surrounding the movie. We're not going away, and I don't see any reason why Ecto Cooler can't be one of the flavors in the Hi-C pantheon."
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