Thirty years ago this week, we introduced New Coke with no shortage of hype and fanfare. And it did succeed in shaking up the market. But not in the way it was intended.
Safe to say, from this vantage point, that New Coke taught The Coca-Cola Company some valuable lessons. First: don’t mess with something that can’t be improved. Second: the people who enjoy our brands ultimately own them.
Many still ask: if we valued the Secret Formula of
Today marks the 30th anniversary of the launch of New Coke. When The Coca-Cola Company made the bold decision to change the formula of its 99-year-old flagship product in April 1985, mayhem ensued. More than 1,000 calls flooded Coke's consumer hotline per day. Loyalist clubs formed, with members hoarding cases of original Coca-Cola and creating a black market. Protestors picketed the company's Atlanta headquarters. And Coke employees were barraged
Mooney half-jokingly says the summer of 1985 was the only time during his 36-year career with
The Coca-Cola Company when he was reluctant to tell people who he worked for. "Those 79
days felt like an eternity,” recalls Mooney, who retired as Coke’s chief
archivist in 2013. “As an employee, it was an uncomfortable and almost surreal
position to be in… it was sort of like we were starring in a bad movie.”
Keough was a hugely influential executive who helped shape Coca-Cola as it is
today. Keough, who died on Feb. 24, was involved in many pivotal events during his
long career. But no incident was bigger and more challenging than the ill-fated
launch of New Coke 30 years ago today.
combed through some of Keough’s remembrances of the era. Here are a few
On the initial, negative response
Harold Burson’s role in the infamous New Coke launch began when
his phone rang a few days after Christmas, 1984.
called me at home, which was very unusual,” the co-founder of what is today the
world’s largest public relations firm, Burson-Marsteller, recalled last fall
during an employee event at Coca-Cola headquarters in Atlanta.
voice on the other end of the line was his client and close confidante,
When we were building and programming the exhibits for the
World of Coca-Cola in 2007, we had a tough decision on where to place two
elements critical to telling the full story of Coca-Cola. First, where and how should we tell the story
of the Coca-Cola Santa that so influenced the way old St. Nick is perceived in
society? The second was fully telling
the story of New Coke and the impact it had as a business driver and social
On April 23,
1985 – 28 years ago today – Coca-Cola made the now-infamous decision to replace
the secret formula of its flagship brand. The New Coke introduction, which critics called the business
blunder of the century and cynics declared an unintended stroke of marketing
genius, unleashed an avalanche of calls, letters, protests and bad press.
leading up to the launch showed that consumers preferred the taste of New Coke.
To hear some tell it, April 23, 1985, was a day that will live in marketing infamy.
On that day, The Coca-Cola Company took arguably the biggest risk in consumer goods history, announcing that it was changing the formula for the world's most popular soft drink, and spawning consumer angst the likes of which no business has ever seen.
Swinging for the FencesThe Coca-Cola Company introduced reformulated Coca-Cola, often referred to as "new