New Coke Blunder: The Pepsi Clone People Liked But Didn't Want

CULTURE | May 13, 2023

New Coke was a product of the cola wars

source: coca-cola company

By 1985, Coca-Cola's dominance of the cola market was quickly dissipating. Thanks to both the "Pepsi Challenge" (a blind taste test held at shopping malls) and a waning interest in Coca-Cola, the company behind the formerly beloved soft drink felt that they needed to do something to shake up public interest and to jack their sales up to numbers not seen since the 1960s.

In the midst of the "cola wars" Coca-Cola lobbed a grenade into soft drink battlefield with the release of New Coke, a sweeter version of the original drink. The Coca-Cola Company allegedly performed more than 200,000 taste tests before launching New Coke. The company's numbers showed that the public would like the taste of New Coke, but Coca-Cola didn't take into consideration how people actually feel about the classic soda.

Coca-Cola learned an important marketing lesson in a very public way. Coke drinkers were so attached to the customary formula that they wouldn't -- couldn't -- have an open mind about a new and, according to market research, improved version. The taste of New Coke wasn't the issue. The problem was that the introduction of New Coke left loyal customers feeling that the company was taking something away from them for no apparent reason. Coke drinkers felt betrayed.

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Jacob Shelton


Jacob Shelton is a Los Angeles based writer. For some reason this was the most difficult thing he’s written all day, and here’s the kicker – his girlfriend wrote the funny part of that last sentence. As for the rest of the bio? That’s pure Jacob, baby. He’s obsessed with the ways in which singular, transgressive acts have shaped the broader strokes of history, and he believes in alternate dimensions, which means that he’s great at a dinner party. When he’s not writing about culture, pop or otherwise, he’s adding to his found photograph collection and eavesdropping on strangers in public.