New Coke by Coca Cola – Learning from Marketing Failures

For most marketers who have been in the industry for a considerable duration of time, it should not come as a surprise to hear about the marketing failure of “New Coke”. But what exactly is New Coke by Coca Cola and is it really coming back, as stated in cnbc?

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In this 6 mins article, we will be going through what New Coke is all about, how it became the largest mishap in Coca Cola’s books and what we can take away from it.

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What is Coca Cola’s New Coke?

Back in 1985, Coca Cola was arguably one of the biggest and most successful soft drinks companies of the era, with Coke being its signature drink. However, sales were dipping along with consumer’s preference for Coke.

To counter that, surveys and taste tests were rolled out in order to better understand consumer’s preference. Following up on the market results, Coca Cola reformulated their traditional recipe with an intention to rejuvenate and rebrand the company. The new drink was launched under the name “New Coke”, which would later come to be known as the biggest marketing failure studies upon in business schools.

How did it fail?

On the 10th year anniversary, CEO, Mr Goizueta gave a speech about making Intelligent RIsk and how important it is to the success of the company, alongside the official launch of New Coke. What Mr Goizueta did not prepare the staff for were hordes of email and thousands of call complaints.

The question to be answered is, “Didn’t Coca Cola conduct their market research among 200,000 consumers? Why are consumers complaining?” The answer is simple. What consumers look for when making purchases is never just about the product. It is about the brand identity and familiarity associated with it.

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And in this case of Coca Cola, consumers alongside protest groups were formed, with hopes of bringing back the “old” coca cola. What they are fighting for, is that memory and taste they experience in their familiar and favourite soft drink.

What we can learn from this.

It is true that change is inevitable and that change is the only constant. However, it did not make sense for Coca Cola to make changes when there wasn’t a need to. Yes, sales were dipping but entirely changing the branding/drink would not be wise given that consumers still desire coke classic.

Hence, key lesson: Don’t change for the sake of change. Understand the consumers and what they really want before making that leap of change.


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