New Coke was a revamp of the classic Cola-Cola recipe which was launched in April 1985 in the United States. It caused an enormous customer backlash, was discontinued and traditional Coca-Cola was re-introduced just three months after its release.
New Coke was designed to compete with Coca-Cola rival Pepsi-Cola. Market research had been conducted by Coca-Cola scientists and blind tests suggested that many participants preferred the sweeter taste of Pepsi-Cola over traditional Coca-Cola despite many of them claiming to buy and drink only the latter. The Coca-Cola recipe was than changed to reflect this and a large marketing campaign was carried out to raise awareness.
New Coke was launched to American consumers in 1985 behind a multi-million dollar marketing campaign and immediately many were unhappy with the change in formula, especially in the Southern United States. Tens of thousands of consumers called or wrote letters to the Coca-Cola headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia to complain about the change. The new recipe was mocked by comedians and late-night television hosts throughout the United States, although informal taste-tests showed that many people could not differentiate between New Coke and traditional recipe.
The New Coke recipe was quickly abandoned within a few short months due to the negative and at times even hostile public reaction. The venture was regarded largely as a marketing failure although it should be noted that the reintroduction of the ‘classic’ coke recipe caused a significant increase in sales as people rushed to buy the beverage.
The failure of New Coke has been well studied. Many consumers saw Coca-Cola as something of a reflection of America and American values, particularly in the southern U.S. where it is headquartered. New Coke is now seen as something of a cautionary tale against changing a product that has been well-established and liked for a long time.
Conspiracy theorists claim that the failure of New Coke was planned all along and that the entire campaign was nothing but a marketing ploy by Coca-Cola to bolster their position as the #1 soda in the world.