April 23, 2009

April 23, 1985: Coca-Cola Announces New Coke

Before Israel vs Palestine, before Ford vs Chevy, before Dennis vs Mr. Wilson, before Marmaduke vs. Garfield, before God vs Jesus, before Noah vs Unicorns, before Tornadoes vs Trailer Parks, before Heroin vs Speed; before all other conflicts (though not in chronological order, or any order i've actually considered) there was Pepsi vs Coke, two giants in the cola industry who continue to battle for king of the cola market to this day.

Over the hundred + years that they've been competing with each another there have been many attacks, strategies, and maneuvers designed to give one market dominance over the other. During one of these battles, New Coke happened.

On April 23, 1985, Coca-Cola announced that they would be switching the formula in Coca-Cola to a new sweeter, smoother formula that would put sunglasses on America's grandmas and teach their breakdancing dogs to slam dunk basketballs. Coke had been losing a lot of the youth market to Pepsi, who had the color blue on their side. At first, America's coke drinkers smiled and bought it up. But some Americans (those who are willing to allow themselves to be deeply offended by a drink) became deeply offended by the drink. This small portion were very vocal about their feelings, stating that Coke's formula was sacred, American, something which should not be muddled with. The rest of the coke drinking population, who never thought to put further significance on the soft drink than just cost and flavor, were suddenly put into defensive positions, forced to justify their support of the new flavor to the cranky New Coke haters in strict, uncomfortable panel discussions reminiscent of the McCarthy era.

Even if I am exaggerating a bit (I was six years old when the new flavor was introduced, so I was too busy smoking weed to pay any real attention), the backlash to New Coke was immense. Within months, Coca-Cola announced that they would be re-introducing the original formula as Classic Coke, which is the coke we drink to this day, but not exactly the coke we were drinking before new coke. When Coke brought it back, they replaced sugar with High Fructose Corn Syrup, but America was so happy to have their old formula back that they didn't notice, or didn't care.

Taking away and bringing back America's favorite drink was the smartest thing Coke ever did. Coke continues to be the number one soft drink in America, and has enjoyed a market share well above what it was before introducing New Coke. There are 2 popular conspiracy theories related to New Coke. The first has to do with their replacement of sugar with corn syrup, mentioned above. The second claims that the Coca-Cola company introduced New Coke and discontinued the old formula with the intention all along of bringing the old formula back. The company denies both theories: "We're not that dumb, and we're not that smart."

Meanwhile, Pepsi stands by, waiting for the right time to drop their next attack: New Classic Crystal Pepsi Extreme!


  1. i would love me some cryztal pepsi! I actually enjoyed the drink when it came out in 1993!

  2. I don't remember what it tastes like! just the ad campaign with that Van Halen song.

    this is for you: http://mtv.thehumangiant.com/videos/1580592/142059

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