As part of a new collaboration with Netflix sensation “Stranger Things”, soft drink giants Coca-Cola have announced plans to bring back one of the most notorious products in their long history. 34 years after a launch that has since been declared one of the most spectacular failures in food and drink history, the company are about to reintroduce “New Coke” to the market. Whether they have any more success this time around.
The promotion has been organised to celebrate the release of the third season of Stranger Things, scheduled for this July across the international streaming service. Specialising in encapsulating 80s nostalgia, the series will feature the infamous “New Coke”, which was originally released in the summer of 1985 to almost universal ridicule and hostility.
Part of what made “New Coke” so notorious was that it represented the first change to the drink’s legendary formula for almost a century. Whilst executives expected some hesitancy from their customers, no one anticipated the outrage that was to come. According to Coca-Cola’s own website, what followed was a “firestorm of consumer protest”, with customers stockpiling up to $1,000 of original Coke in their basements and inundating the company’s head office with as many as “1,500 calls a day on its consumer hotline.” After months of furious resistance, Coca-Cola ditched the new formula and returned to their classic can.
In the years that have followed the New Coke catastrophe, Coca-Cola have tried to spin the story as an inadvertent positive. Former chairman and chief executive Roberto Goizueta optimistically attempted to make the case that, "We set out to change the dynamics of sugar colas in the United States, and we did exactly that -- albeit not in the way we had planned." However, despite the best attempts to put a positive spin on the situation, the fact is that the release remains one of the most famous blunders in drinks history.
Given the scale of the disaster, you could be forgiven for wondering why the company would want to remind customers of the cock-up. However, according to senior vice president of marketing for Coca-Cola North America, Stuart Kronauge, the Stranger Things collaboration is a chance to show consumers that the business does “not take (them)selves too seriously,” according to an interview he gave to CNN. This sentiment was echoed by director of Coca-Cola trademark Oana Vlad, who told USA Today, “When Netflix told us Season 3 was going to be set in the summer of 1985 - with the tagline that ‘one summer could change everything’ - that rang so true for us. The summer of 1985 did in fact change everything for us with the introduction of New Coke, which was arguably one of the biggest pop culture moments of that year.”
Reaction to the news that New Coke is making a comeback has been predictably mixed. Many people, seemingly still haunted by the summer of 1985, have been quick to voice their horror at the company’s decision to bring the drink back from the dead. Twitterers have variously labelled the concoction as “gross” and one of the “greatest blunders a company ever made.” Regardless, as Stranger Things proves, nostalgia can be a powerful motivator. Maybe things will be different this time around.