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Marketing Mistake: New Coke

Marketing Mistake: New Coke
January 30, 2015 Ronin Marketing

Oops…When you think of the world’s biggest brands, Coca-Cola is amongst at the top.

Not only is it one of the largest, longest standing and most popular brands of all time but one with a track record of extremely successful marketing campaigns. Coke is one of the most loved and most popular drink choices, whose only major rival is Pepsi. And in an effort to remain the industry leader, Coke made arguably one of their most memorable marketing mistakes.

This rivalry came to a head in the early 1980’s after Pepsi ran a campaign around a blind taste test between the two brand’s products and promoted the results. The marketing brains behind Coca-Cola weren’t going to take this lying down and in 1985, they took a seriously bold step and released a modified formula designed to be more desirable than the original Coke and Pepsi and aptly branded it ‘New Coke’. They took the results of the Pepsi campaign to mean that the old formula had run its course and it was time for an update. Take a look at the ad…

Initially, New Coke did extremely well, with customers not only showing overwhelming support for the new formula but also opting for New Coke over Pepsi. Based on this, the decision was made to eliminate the original Coke formula. This choice resulted in a plummet of sales and a huge number of religious Coca-Cola supporters boycotting the brand altogether.

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The biggest downfall here was the assumption that taste was the only reason that customers prefer Coke to Pepsi, but there was a deep-seeded emotional connection that a huge amount of the population had. It wasn’t just the preference, it was the fact that being a ‘Coke Drinker’ was a part of someone’s identity.

It wasn’t until Coca-Cola remarketed their original formula as Classic Coke and acknowledged their failure, that sales started to rise.

Never underestimate the power of brand equity OR the specific role you play in your customers’ lives. Mess with either at your peril.

(Sources: https://www.coca-colacompany.com/history/the-real-story-of-new-coke
https://depts.washington.edu/foster/marketing-failure-new-coke/)