New Coke

Here is an alternative perspective on “New Coke.” Typically it is understood as a marketing failure, however the truth is that in the time “New Coke” rolled out the company was in disarray and market share was sinking.

The very thing that fatally undermined “New Coke” was that all along Coca-Cola had traded on authenticity, heritage. It wasn’t a brand of a category of beverage like “Tropicana” is a brand of “orange juice.” Coke was the category itself, Coke was not a brand of cola, Coke WAS cola, symbol and the thing symbolized.

This is encapsulated in the all-time classic marketing slogans “The Real Thing” and “Coke is It.” And now, Coke wasn’t the “Real” thing any more!

Ironically this rejuvenated the value of the “real” Coke. People were inspired to value “Coca Cola Classic” (as absolutely nobody at all ever outside the Coca Cola Company called it) all the more. Peter Jennings broke into scheduled programming on ABC to report when “Classic” Coke was reintroduced and by the end of the ‘debacle’ the company and the product both more than recovered.

Coca Cola “Classic” It soon trounced Pepsi in market share, the company’s stock rose to a 16 year high and everyone gleefully bathed in the hyperreality of the indefinable “Real” something that Coca Cola represented, again.

Even “New Coke” wasn’t all bad. A few years after the affair the Wall Street Journal reported that in a blind taste test of mostly self-identified Pepsi drinkers, New Coke still slightly edged out Pepsi.