After years upon years of competition with Pepsi, April 1985 saw the Coca-cola Company stun millions when it announced its decision to change the formula of its flagship soft drink Coke, in a desperate move to gain back over half of the market share it had lost to Pepsi and its sweeter formula, since the end of the second world war.
Almost as soon as “New Coke” was unveiled, the backlash began. See, the old coke had been around for years and was already embedded into the worlds psyche. When people thought about their birthday or their wedding day, Coke came into mind.
On hearing rumours of Coca-cola’s initial change of formula, the ecstatic CEO of PepsiCo, Roger Enrico, sensed a misstep and pounced. He sent the following celebratory letter to all staff. It was then displayed as a full-page ad in the New York Times.
To all Pepsi Bottlers and Pepsi-Cola Company personnel:
It gives me great pleasure to offer each of you my heartiest congratulations. After 87 years of going at it eyeball to eyeball, the other person just blinked.
Coca cola is withdrawing their product form the market place and is reformulating brand Coke to be “more like Pepsi.” Too bad Ripley’s not around… he could have had a field day with this one.
There is no question that the long term success of Pepsi has forced this move. Everyone knows when something is right, it doesn’t need changing.
Maybe they finally realized what most of us have known for years: Pepsi tastes better than Coke.
Well, people in trouble tend to do desperate things…and we’ll have to keep our eye on them.
But for now, I say victory is sweet, and we have earned a celebration. We’re going to declare a holiday on Friday.
President, Chief Executive Officer
In fact, the reaction was so negative that within three months the old formula had been reintroduced alongside the new one and branded “Coca-cola Classic.” The comeback of the old formula resulted in a significant gain in sales. So much so, that Coca-cola management later decided to entirely drop the “New Coke”, in favour of the older version. Since then, this has led to speculation among conspiracy theorists that the introduction of the New Coke was just a marketing ploy; however, the company has maintained to this day, that it was merely an attempt to replace the original product.