On this day in 1985, the Coca-Cola Company introduced New Coke, pulling the original formula of its popular soft drink off the shelves. This move was one of the worst decisions and greatest strokes of luck in business history.
In the early 1980s, Coca-Cola found itself losing ground to Pepsi in popularity and sales. After extensive research, it tried to shake up its old brand and formula with a slew of advertisements (like the one to the right) and commercials including the below one with Bill Cosby.
Coca-Cola, an Atlanta-based company, first introduced its soft drink and southerners have held a steadfast loyalty to the brand since then, even referring to all soft drinks as Coke. As a six-year-old in Tennessee, I remember my mother bringing home New Coke from the grocery store. It tasted like bad Pepsi.
Apparently, millions of Americans from all over the U.S. agreed with my assessment and the company experienced an unprecedented level of backlash. On July 11, Coca-Cola announced that it was bringing the original formula back as Coca-Cola Classic. By early 1986, it was once again the number one sugar cola in America.
A common myth is that Coca-Cola planned the whole thing to increase popularity for the brand, but a great Snopes.com article gives a detailed chronology of the pulling and reintroduction of the original formula and an explanation of how Coca-Cola could not have logistically pulled off this move. Instead, it is simply a corporate misfire that miraculously paid off and is a testament to what Americans will do when a product they love is changed.
As for New Coke, it remained in stores. In 1992, its name was officially changed to Coke II. By 1998, it was sold only in Midwestern cities and in 2002 it was pulled off the shelves.