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On April 23, 1985 New Coke was Born
It’s the 32nd Anniversary of one of the darkest days in soft drink history. On this day in 1985, Coca-Cola rolled out its sweeter “New Coke” formula. Regarded by many as one of the worst moves in marketing history, the switch was prompted by the surge in consumption of the sweeter tasting Pepsi-Cola. This was huge news back in the mid-eighties, with news coverage and magazine cover stories everywhere.
Check out this CBS News story from 1985
I was pretty excited about this release. My family were big Coca-Cola drinkers. The idea that I might be around during the release of a new formulation was astounding. Then I tried it and I thought, this stuff tastes like Pepsi. Although I am a Coke drinker, I don’t hate Pepsi, so I did not freak out like many. However, I was sad at the idea of never having the classic formula again.
Listen to the Retroist New Coke Podcast
Coke spared no expense in the roll-out, spending millions on advertising, you can see some of those ads in the CBS program. They even enlisted hot TV star/comedian Bill Cosby to hawk this inferior formula. The commercial is pure insincerity, with Cosby sitting in front of a plain background, wearing one of his trademark sweaters, telling us how much better the New Coke actually is. Hope you enjoy counting your pieces of silver Bill!
Check out the Bill Cosby New Coke commercial
As we all know, New Coke failed and the Coca-Cola Company reintroduced Classic Coke and all was right with the world. New Coke lingered on for a while and was eventually renamed “Coke II”. Eventually, that faded as well and according to Coca-Cola Company, Coke II is no longer distributed in the US.
If you grew up when New Coke was introduced, you grew up hearing about the Cola Wars. This war between Coke and Pepsi had been going on for decades, usually with Coke on top. At this point, Pepsi was on top and millions were being spent on advertising and marketing. The release of New Coke and its potential for disaster was difficult for the media to ignore. It is one of the reasons why this release became so memorable. Media discussed it often, and hundreds of articles predicted the demise of Coca-Cola based on this colossal mistake.
New Coke was a disaster, but it did show that the consuming public had a passion for the original formula, and hey we all make mistakes. Right, Pepsi?
Note: I actually love Crystal Pepsi. The fact that Pepsi brought it back is proof that others feel the same way.