‘New Coke’ A Monumental Failure

When you begin the search for big product failures, you’ll see many repeated across different websites, these are what the internet used to call the real epic fails. You know the big ones, the hilariously bad E.T the video game, McDonald’s short-lived pizza, and New Coke.

In August of 1985, Coke shook the world when it announced a new version of their soda that made the bold claims to be “smoother, rounder, yet bolder — a more harmonious flavor.” Except it wasn’t just a new version, it was replacing the original formula.

Coke after beginning to lose the battle of Coke vs Pepsi, thanks mostly to Pepsi’s marketing campaign, decided to do what they figured the only logical thing was to do, become more like Pepsi. They assumed that if they simply took their soda, and made it sweeter, people would once again, pick up the red can instead of the blue. Reader: They did not.

Coke had been around for nearly 100 years, not straying from their signature look or recipe. People relied on that, they wanted the familiar. Coke assumed their consumers would welcome a change, and embrace a new taste of an old classic. They assumed very wrong, within months they were receiving so many calls a day, they had to hire new phone operators.

In the case of Coke’s failure, it wasn’t entirely based on assumptions without evidence. They did in fact do thousands of blind taste tests, where New Coke did beat both the original recipe and Pepsi. The taste should have been enough, this should have been huge! What they failed to consider was loyalty and familiarity. They never checked their assumption that their consumers would want a new formula.

As the story goes, Coke brought back their OG soda, branded as Coke-a-cola Classic, as we see it today. In fact, while they did have a huge failure for a few months, they ended up on top after all. The drama over the whole thing reminded people how much they loved Coke, and in turn, Coke ended up back on top, once again beating out Pepsi for the top-selling soda. I suppose theirs something to be learned from every failure, and this one is no different.