April 23 is a "special" day in Coke’s history: On this day in 1985, we introduced the new taste of Coca-Cola, what’s commonly called "new Coke."
Those of you were who were around 23 years ago may very clearly remember the taste change. For those of you who weren’t yet born – or weren’t in the U.S. or Canada – the change was a big deal. People were not happy that we had changed their Coke. (We introduced the original formula, Coca-Cola classic, just a few months later in response to the outcry.) In fact, the taste change is so much a part of our Company that we have an exhibit about it at the New World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta.
We’ve told the story of "new Coke," which for years has been called everything from the marketing blunder of the century to a genius move on Coke’s part. (You can read more here.) Good or bad, the change helped remind people what they love about Coke – and helped the Company remember that Coca-Cola is more than just a drink.
I’d like to tell you a bit about what I remember of those days. The stories are true. There were protesters calling for us to bring back the "old" Coke. A number of people who worked at Coke were even reassigned to deal with the calls and letters from the public. Everywhere I went, when people found out I worked for the Company, I’d get bombarded with complaints – as if I personally had made the decision to change the taste!
What I remember most is the passion the public had about Coca-Cola. They were so upset we’d changed the taste, and their reactions usually fell into three categories: those who said they’d never drink Coke again if they couldn’t have "old" Coke, those who were really at a loss and wondered what they were going to do without their favorite beverage, and those who simply called those running the Company "idiots!" (I preferred getting one of the first two reactions!)
As an employee, I got comments from neighbors, people in the grocery store – total strangers and friends alike. We employees were all given free samples of the new Coke to give to people we knew. Some people refused to take it, while others politely took the free drink but I knew they weren’t going to drink it!
On July 10, when the Company announced that "old" Coke was coming back, it led the nightly news reports. As I said, it was a big deal! People rejoiced. "New" Coke remained in stores, with Coca-Cola classic and Coca-Cola selling alongside each other. (And just a side note: There was never a drink called New Coke. The reformulated drink later was renamed Coke II before finally disappearing from the marketplace.)
What do you remember about the days of "new Coke"? Did you hoard the "old" Coke? Did you protest? I’d love to hear from you!
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