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Posts Tagged: What?

I Can See That Change Was Just Too Hard For Us

Friday 27th November 2009

I’m going to talk about Coke for a bit. Bear with me, because there is a point. Apologies if anyone knows the background already.

In the 50s, Coke had over half of the market share. By the 80s, this had dropped to about a quarter, and Pepsi was beginning to outsell it. As a result, Coca-Cola decided to do some taste tests to see which drink people preferred. Pepsi was the most popular, with people saying that they preferred it because it was sweeter. Due to this, Coca-Cola decided to change the recipe of Coke to make it sweeter, and started to test new recipes in blind taste tests alongside “old” Coke and Pepsi. As a result of these tests the company came up with a recipe that was more popular than “old” Coke or Pepsi, and the decision was taken to use this new recipe for Coke.

Coca-Cola decided that rather than sell this as a new variety they would simply replace their current Coke with the new one. They also decided to announce the change and to publicise it (see this rather hilarious news report). Pepsi, by the way, took it as indication that they had won the Cola Wars (I shit you not), and gave every employee a day off work to celebrate.

This is a probably massive oversimplification of what happened, but basically the new recipe wasn’t a success. Despite the fact that most people did indeed prefer New Coke in a blind taste test, there was a massive backlash against the company which eventually led to the old recipe being reintroduced in less than 3 months (it was referred to on the floor of the Senate(!) as “a meaningful moment in U.S. history”). People didn’t like the idea of Coca-Cola, a drink which had (to their minds, at least) stayed constant for decades and decades, suddenly changing.

It’s easy to stick with the familiar. Easy and comfortable. But how do you know if your perception of something is changing your actual experience of it; how do you know if the idea of what Coke is, is changing your taste for it? And whats to say that you wouldn’t actually prefer New Coke if you tried to get used to it?

Of course, the Coke recipe has changed a bit over the years – even before New Coke. I think it’s even varied depending on the region where it’s going to be sold, so that it appeals more to the taste of people there. And the epitaph to the story is that after the original recipe for Coke was re-introduced, sales shot back up. So, was the attempt to introduce the new drink a massive flop, or a really masterful marketing campaign?

(btw, just thought I’d mention, Coke > Pepsi. Fact)

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