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New Coke. Bad Joke.
The Cola Wars during the 1980s were brutal. On this day back in 1985, Coca-Cola launched its next weapon, and the competition laughed. Check out the story behind the most successful joke.
Have you ever said something you knew wasn't a great idea but took a chance and commented anyway? And then when people called you out on it, you simply turned around and said something to the effect of "SIKE, I was just kidding y'all. "
I have certainly been guilty. Admit it, you as well—all of us.
Well, the Coca-Cola Company can be accused of doing this very thing on April 23, 1985, as it rolled out New Coke for the world to basically mock. Only to have Coke say, "Well, we are just joking, everybody."
Here is a quick summary of how we got here. Sales of Coke were slipping, like the old man Corleone from The Godfather. New competition, primarily Pepsi and awful diet drinks, was cutting into the family business.
Coke needed a jolt, like a shot of Mellow Yellow perhaps, to get sales popping. Thus, the development of a new cola formula, and after much deliberation, they slapped the word "New" in front of "Coke," and away we went.
The announcement landed like a fart in church. This American icon, Coca-Cola, had just publicly announced their product was garbage, so they reinvented themselves, and now Coke is better. Capitalism, y'all.
Seriously Fidel Castro laughed at this change. Bill Cosby dropped being a spokesman because he thought it hurt his image. I could go on.
I fully understand products do this all the time - reinvention. However, it is annoying to see something that is both "New" and "Improved" simultaneously.
How is something new while also improved, which indicates that it existed before said improvement? This is more difficult to understand than algebra, and I took 27 classes in algebra.
The tricks my mind plays on me.
Of course, the most significant backlash came from the South, where they get upset about pretty much everything. The Atlanta – based treasure, Coke changing their formula, was like surrendering to the Yankees all over again, simply because Pepsi made their home in New York.
I do concede the fact these were called the Cola Wars.
What is the difference in the new formula? It was sweeter. I like sweet, and I want to think I’m sweet. I like saying the word sweet. New Coke dominated taste tests. But they would never admit it, and people couldn’t accept it.
I was nine when this announcement happened. In July of the same year, like other major events of my youth, the news interrupted the soap opera to announce that New Coke was being shelved and Old Coke was making a comeback.
The funny thing is, the entire thing worked.
Sales for Coke skyrocketed.
Here’s a summary of Coke’s plan:
“Here’s New Coke, which is just as awesome as Old Coke, but here is New Coke, okay?!”
"Oh, you don't like New Coke? Okay, here’s Old Coke, but we now call it Classic!”
“See, we made sure you have the American Classic Cola…Coke.”
Before the pandemic, Coke brought back New Coke two years ago, and people went nuts buying it online. I’m telling you, Fidel was right on Capitalism, y’all.
Are you a New Coke person? Classic? Pepsi? Do they even still make RC Cola? My brother drinks Coke Zero, which sounds like a branding scheme that doesn't make sense. Tell me below!