New Coke was only around for 79 days in 1985. Chances are it won’t last nearly as long in 2019 – but for much different reasons.
That’s right, the ill-fated brand considered by many to be one of the biggest-ever marketing mishaps is making a brief comeback this summer for a (very) limited promotional run through a first-of-its-kind partnership between
Beyond appearing prominently on screen throughout Stranger Things Season 3, New Coke will be available in the “real world” beginning Thursday, May 23, at 5 p.m. ET, when
‘Why Wouldn’t We Do This?’
The idea for the 2019 limited run of New Coke started when Netflix contacted
“When Netflix told us Season 3 was going to be set in the summer of 1985 – with the tagline that ‘one summer could change everything’ – that rang so true for us,” said Oana Vlad, director of
As Vlad and her colleagues started to see how prominently the brand would feature in the Stranger Things narrative, they decided to go “all in” and resurrect the dormant drink.
“Ultimately, we looked around the room and said, ‘Why wouldn’t we do this?’” Vlad recalled. “No one would have ever thought we’d produce New Coke again after what happened in 1985, but we all agreed that if we wanted to partner with Netflix and Stranger Things in a truly culturally relevant way that would resonate with our fans – and theirs – then we had to make the New Coke story come to life.”
Back to the Future
“There were no Adobe Illustrator files back then – and not as much printing standardization – so we had to start the design process from scratch,” recalls Elyse Larouere, senior designer,
Larouere and her team took steps to preserve the original New Coke aesthetic, meticulously recreating the logo and mimicking the slightly different Coke red used more than three decades ago.
“We wanted to honor both our heritage and the Duffer Brothers’ commitment to authenticity,” she added. “Stranger Things fans love the nostalgic vibe of the show, so to be able to bring New Coke back to life in a physical way takes the experience to another level. We hope people who remember New Coke can relive those memories, and those like me who weren’t alive in 1985 can appreciate the fact that a show that honors cultural icons of the time is honoring this one.”
“Project Revival” as it was dubbed internally required far more than a graphics change, however. The company wanted to give fans the chance to see, touch and taste New Coke, which meant the R&D and supply chain commercialization teams had to do some detective work of their own.
“We had to first retrieve the New Coke recipe that has been protected in our safe over the years,” said Michael Burdett, principal scientist, global category development, The
Peter Shoemaker, director of sparkling category commercialization,
“All told, everything took about six months and was top secret,” he said. “Most people on my team didn’t even know about it.”
Burdett said the project shows how far the company’s culture has come in recent years. “One of our growth behaviors is celebrating and learning from failure, and New Coke – for better or worse – is known as a failure,” he said. “Bringing it back in a fun, creative way to support the Stranger Things partnership shows we don’t take ourselves too seriously.”
‘We’re Not That Dumb, and We’re Not That Smart’
On April 23, 1985,
Pre-launch research showed that Americans preferred the taste of New Coke over the then 99-year-old original. But what the tests didn't reveal was the emotional bond Americans felt with their
“The passion for original Coke was something that just flat caught us by surprise,” Don Keough, then president and chief operating officer of The
“Some critics will say
Sales of the original
“New Coke taught us that our fans are extremely passionate about our brand and great taste,” Vlad said. “That passion has helped propel Coke to the iconic brand it is today and encourages us to continue to do big things to connect with our fans. It’s not about a ‘mistake’… it’s what we learned and the incredible cultural resonance of
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