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THE NEW COKE SAGA – MARKETING DISASTER OR ASTUTE STRATEGY.

 

On April 23, 1985, the Coca Cola Company (Coca Cola) introduced a new product: New Coke. New Coke was ostensibly a replacement for the product they were selling previously known as Coke, and which this article will now refer to as Original Coke. The Original Coke advertising jingle at the time went, “Things go better with Coca Cola, things go better with Coke.”
However, regarding this change, things did not go better with New Coke. In fact, many people saw it both as a marketing and public relations disaster. With a nod to Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s reaction to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, some observers described this as a day which would “live in infamy.” Well, while it might not have been quite as bad as losing a row of battleships to enemy action, it did nevertheless shock many consumers of that sweet dark acidic beverage with the iconic red and white label. As a result, sales duly fell off a cliff almost immediately afterwards.
At the time this event was seen as a marketing disaster of unimaginable proportions, and so it has been considered ever since. But was it really so? It would certainly appear to be described that way according to every business textbook or business magazine article. And yet Coca Cola has had us all fooled during the intervening 37 years. Think about this whole episode a bit more carefully, you will see this was all a piece of very astute and discreet business planning to make Coca Cola a lot of money. But sales did drop precipitously, so how could this possibly be a good thing for them? To understand that argument, we need to look at the whole picture from start to finish.



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