July 10, 1985, just 79 days after The Coca-Cola Company shocked the world by changing the 99-year-old recipe for Coke, the company retreated and put the original recipe back on the market. Here are five shocking facts that you didn't know about about New Coke...
New Coke Would Have Saved the Company $50 Million a Year. If you think Coca-Cola's attempt at launching a new recipe was all just a marketing ploy to boost sales, you're wrong. The "new and improved" recipe was actually a major cost-savings measure by the soda conglomerate. New Coke contained fewer ingredients and was, therefore, cheaper to produce than the classic recipe. If it had taken off the way executives thought it would, the savings would have totaled around $50 million a year. Instead, the company lost at least $30 million on unsold product (though Coca-Cola has never publicly announced the total hit they took).
Coca-Cola Sold New Coke Up Until 2002. New Coke's shelf life was not just the 79 days between its launch and the rebirth of Coca-Cola Classic. The company had spent $4 million testing the beverage with over 200,000 consumers. And though they never told consumers the recipe they were tasting would overtake the existing Coke recipe, responses were generally positive. So, Coca-Cola thought New Coke's failure was more of a marketing blunder than a bad product. So they rebranded New Coke as Coke II and sold it all the way until 2002 when it was officially pulled from shelves.
The Company Received Over 400,000 Letters and Phone Calls About New Coke. In 1985, consumers didn't have the option to hop online and leave bad reviews about New Coke, so they had to do it the old-fashioned way: by phone and mail. Coca-Cola received over 400,000 calls and letters from disgruntled customers in the brief two-and-a-half month window that New Coke was sold in stores. When CEO Roberto Goizueta announced bottlers would have the option of buying both New Coke and Coca-Cola Classic concentrates on July 10, 1985, producers bought the old recipe at a 10 to 1 ratio. The people had spoken: New Coke was out.
Bill Cosby was the Official New Coke Spokesman. Though Mr. Cosby isn't getting much PR work these days, in the mid-eighties he was the king of promotions. His Jell-O commercials live on in infamy, but surprisingly few people remember that Cosby was also the guy brought on to promote New Coke. Cosby stepped away from the role as soon as the backlash hit because he was—somewhat ironically today—concerned about his reputation. A few months later, Coca-Cola rolled out their new spokesman: Max Headroom.
It Wasn't a Genius Marketing Ploy Like Some Think. Despite the perceived failure of New Coke, marketing experts have long-debated whether New Coke was intended to fail from the very beginning. Several theories prevail that indicate Coke's blunder may have been a genius marketing move. Sales had been steadily slumping for 15 years, and many believe pulling the original recipe from shelves was a way to boost sales. Others claim it was a clever way for Coca-Cola to renew their patent on the original recipe or that it was all a guise to pull attention away from their switch to high fructose corn syrup. Considering Coke has never once acknowledged the failure as part of their marketing strategy, chances are good it was truly just a big-time blunder and not a genius master plan.