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 phenomenon.

We ultimately decided to place both exhibits in the Pop Culture Gallery precisely because their stories transcend the usual historical narrative and linear storytelling associated with the more traditional exhibits in the Milestones of Refreshment Gallery.

New Coke Anniversary 604

For a quick primer on New Coke, read this story. When we worked on this exhibit, we wanted to make sure that we showed all sides of the story, the initial enthusiasm of the company as they launched a product they were certain was going to succeed, the immediate and growing backlash as the public realized while there was a new flavor, their Coca-Cola was being taken away and the eventual capitulation of The Coca-Cola Company as Coca-Cola Classic was announced a short 79 days later.

The artifacts we chose to tell the story include some of the more interesting items on display at the world of Coke. Among my favorites is then-Chairman and CEO Roberto Goizueta’s speech introducing New Coke at the media event in New York 30 years ago today, on April 23, 1985. Only this copy of the speech has a number of Goizueta's handwritten annotations and changes when they realized word had leaked and the announcement was no longer a surprise. 

We also have a packaging display, ads featuring Max Headroom urging us to "Catch the Wave" and even a protest 45rpm recording called “Please Don’t Change the Taste of Coke.” A short video called “79 Days” tells the story well and finishes with the famous press conference speech by Coke President Don Keough. If you ever make it to the World of Coke, make sure to check out the Pop Culture Gallery where you can get see the display.

Ted Ryan is director of heritage communications at The Coca-Cola Company.