labels: Soft drinks, Brand Dossier, Advertising / branding
Coke unveils new marketing strategy news
31 January 2009

The Coca-Cola Co will soon drop the word ''Classic'' from its main beverage's label in North America. The move comes as the Atlanta-based beverage giant launches a new global marketing campaign, "Open Happiness."

''It felt like the right time,'' said Coca-Cola spokesman Scott Williamson. ''We're launching new global advertising, and 'Open Happiness' gives us a chance to harmonise Coca-Cola's name in North America with every other country in the world where it's enjoyed.''

The ''Classic'' designation, which appears under the ''Coca-Cola'' script on labels, was added to the packaging in 1985, to distinguish the original formula from a sweeter, wildly unpopular new version of Coke.

New Coke has long since disappeared from shelves, making the ''Classic'' qualification unnecessary. The font size of the ''Classic'' has been shrinking in the last decade, and the company removed it from labels in Canada in 2007.

However, there will still be references on the side of the label to the product being Coke's ''classic original formula.'' The company emphasised the formula for its flagship product is not changing.

The new Coke introduction was one of the more noteworthy debacles in marketing history. Coca-Cola had concocted a sweeter formula for its cola soft drink, and it replaced the original formula in April 1985.

It had spent four years testing the new recipe and conducting taste tests with more than 190,000 people. Coca-Cola found people chose the new formula 55 per cent of the time, and the original one 45 per cent of the time.

However, reality proved to be startlingly different. As soon as new Coke was introduced, Coca-Cola began getting hammered. Employees had to work overtime on its complaints hotline, where it was receiving an average of 1,500 calls a day. People started hoarding containers of the classic formula, formed groups like the Old Cola Drinkers of America, and even boycotted the company in protest.

Ten weeks after introducing the new Coke and after publicly vowing that the original formula was gone for good, company executives brought it back. They added a ''Classic'' underneath the script Coca-Cola lettering to distinguish it from the new formula. Coca-Cola Classic began to outsell new Coke almost immediately, and revived the company's sales.

It was ''a humbling experiment,'' Donald Keough, Coca-Cola's president, said at the time. ''Some cynics say we planned the whole thing. The truth is, we're not that dumb, and we're not that smart.''

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Coke unveils new marketing strategy