This week, New Coke landed in the mailboxes and at the front doors of curious fans. The Limited Edition release of the infamous cola is being done as a tie-in for the upcoming season of the Netflix series, Stranger Things. It is a clever bit of marketing, but is it worth your time, effort and money?
Due to issues with the online ordering system. I wound up with two orders, which went out at different times. My first order arrived the other day and I quickly opened it up. It came in a fun Stranger Things box. Inside were two cans and two bottles. The two cans were of New Coke and the bottles were Stranger Things special editions of original Coke and Coke Zero.
The New Coke cans look great. Their art direction take me back to the eighties. They are also special edition in that they have Stranger Things branding on them.
It is unfortunate that Coke decided to sell this online only. It was plagued with problems, and doing the math, since I could care less about the special edition bottles of Coke and Coke Zero, I am paying 10 bucks for a can of New Coke. Which is insane.
To make matters worse, I do not think it was a good idea to ship only four beverages in a box meant for six. Opening the box was underwhelming and reduced my excitement a great deal and reminded me of the price. I guess Coke crunched the number though, and this is what made sense.
I immediately put my first two cans in the fridge and made plans to have them with my dinner that night.
I decided to use on of my Indiana Jones Temple of Dooms collectors glasses to help set the mood and pouring my first glass I was a little giddy. Prepared to ride a bubbly brown sugar stream of memories back to 1985, I took my first sip.
Just like Proust, biting into a madeleine, suddenly I was back in my childhood home, sitting at our kitchen table, trembling with excitement to try this brand new formulation.
Memories came flooding back to me: the smell of my grandmother’s cigarette, the tinny sound of the portable B&W TV in the corner, the underwhelming disappointment of a brand new soda.
It was oddly satisfying.
New Coke, is sweeter than original Coke and goes down smooth. It is more akin to Pepsi than Coke and as a lifelong Coke drinker, that is not what I want. That is what I thought back in 1985 and I was thrilled that this is exactly what has been captured in this release of New Coke.
This release of New Coke is liquid proof that one can have nostalgia for the mediocre. It confirms my belief that the thing you are nostalgic for need not be remarkable. Instead it nearly needs to transport you back to a time or place that you value. If you are a younger person, trying one of these re-released products for the first time and scratching your head, keep this in mind. The product is almost always meaningless, all that matters it what the products triggers in the consumer.
I am a lifelong drinker of Coke. When New Coke came out, I eagerly lined up to get my hands on it. In the end, I was disappointed. Joining the ranks of people who stocked up on the original formula, I was over the moon when Coke Classic hit shelves. So why would I spend my money on a Limited Edition release of a beverage I don’t remember liking all that much?
Since my last taste of New Coke in the nineties, I have looking for confirmation of my memories. On the internet, we are constantly discussing the foods and beverages of our youth. Things we thought we would never have again. So I am pleased that Coke and Stranger Things gave me this opportunity.
If you are having New Coke for the first time, none of this will matter to you. This is an all new experience. So I would suggest you make it part of your Stranger Things viewing. Have a party, invite some friends over, chill your New Coke and build some new memories.
In two decades you might find yourself sitting on your hover sofa, watching the VR reboot of Stranger Things and when they get to season three, suddenly you will have that hankering for New Coke. At that point, you can jump on whatever passes for the internet and confuse people who have not even been born yet with with your passion for a show and beverage that were set and released in 1985 and for some reason were popular in 2019.
If that is the case, then nostalgia is doing its job.
A brief history of New Coke
A lot of mythology has sprung up around New Coke over the years. Most of that centers around the idea that the release of New Coke was a giant marketing ploy by Coca-Cola. That by changing the formula, they upset fans and generated more demand for the original. While it is true that their an outcry by fans of the original formula, that would bring it back as Coca-Cola Classic, the changing of the formula was an earnest attempt to take on the growing power house that was Pepsi.
By the eighties, Coke was rapidly losing market share to Pepsi and was being beaten in many markets. Better advertising and a “taste test” that had Coke on the ropes, pushed them to try something desperate. So in 1985, the year the current season of Stranger Things is set, original formula Coca-Cola was shelved and New Coke was born.
New Coke was a failure, but it did galvanize fandom for the original beverage, which was quickly put back on the shelves. That said, New Coke would linger until 2002 as Coke II in certain markets.