Sunday, October 6, 2013

Coke Museum's Approach is Refreshing

I recently visited the World of Coca-Cola Museum in Atlanta where I had the opportunity to taste sodas from around the world. Some of them were quite delicious, while others left a bad taste in my mouth.

I gravitated toward the sweetest concoctions, including South Africa’s Bibo Kiwi Mango, which reminded me of something I’d enjoy on the beach with a little rum, and Thailand’s Kiwi Apple, which reminded me of a Jolly Rancher.

In contrast, Italy’s “Beverly” reminded of something you’d use to get information from prisoners of war. No wonder they discontinued it.
Then there’s the most controversial of all Cokes ... New Coke. You couldn’t sample this ill-fated beverage at the museum, but you could learn about it in a small exhibit in the “Pop Culture” area. The exhibit detailed how a new formula for Coke had fared well in taste tests. Buoyed by this success, Coke decided to replace its old formula.

However, the backlash to New Coke was immediate and overwhelmingly negative. Protestors demanded the return of the original Coke formula. It wasn’t long before Coke executives obliged. For a while, they sold New Coke and “Classic” Coke together, before quietly brandishing New Coke to the brand graveyard.

Some accused Coke of a massive publicity stunt, but executives denied it, saying they were neither “that smart nor that dumb.” The exhibit included the statement that announced Classic Coke’s return, complete with editing marks.

Kudos to Coke for tackling its biggest blunder head on. In contrast, I’m told the College Football Hall of Fame once had an entire exhibit devoted to Ohio State Coach Wood Hayes with no mention that his career ended when he hit an opposing player.

I find Coke’s approach to be, umm, refreshing. Like it or not, New Coke is part of Coca-Cola’s history. I don’t remember New Coke’s taste, but I remember the incident. And I’m certain of this much: It couldn’t have been any worse than Beverly.

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