During the 1980s, Coca-Cola had hit somewhat of a crossroads. The brand had entered a new era where consumers were questioning their product choices and questioning their dietry choices. The sugar drink market suffered due to the new health savvy customers who weren't sure if Coca-Cola was the family-friendly drink of yesteryear.
In the 1980s, the sugary soda market began to decline. Executives at Coca-Cola wondered, "Are people getting tired of Coke?" This idea, along with increased competition from Pepsi, prompted Coca-Cola to take a radical step.
The research and development team kept a new formula under wraps from nearly everyone, even the bottlers and board members. The team found that among test group after test group, New Coke was winning against Classic Coke in blind taste tests.
However, researchers failed to mention one thing to their test subjects: The New Coke that they thought tasted better would completely replace the Classic Coke and reshape the brand that had been so popular for almost 100 years.
On April 23, 1985, New Coke was launched, but not without extreme backlash from Classic Coke customers. A group called the Old Cola Drinkers of America formed and, in July, Coke had about 20,000 calls a day expressing anger over the new formula and the removal of Classic Coke.
The problem with New Coke was that it broke tradition. By 1980, Coke was an identifiable icon, and changing the taste had massive cultural implications. The company backtracked three months later, announcing the return of Coca-Cola "classic”. Sales for the original Coca-Cola surged, restoring it as the dominant leader in the nation's competitive soda market.
It would be forever shrouded in mystery if the release New Coke and re-release of Coca-Cola Classic was a genuine attempt to reinvent the brand or a clever marketing stunt to regain interest and passion in the brand.
The 1990s were a time of continued growth, and the company’s long association with sports was strengthened with the continued support of the Olympic Games, The FIFA Word Cup, Rugby World Cup and the NBA.
The popular 'Always Coca-Cola' advertising campaign was launched in 1993, and the world met the lovable Coca-Cola Polar Bear for the first time. New markets opened up as Coca-Cola products were sold in what was formerly East Germany in 1990 and returned to India in 1993.
While it seems unthinkable that a brand that has been such an important part of the past century would ever disappear, their quarterly results have been declining over the past few years. Recent movements by Coca-Cola to invest in energy drink brands has seen a shift towards cautious optimism by understanding that customers are more healthy in relation to sugar but not necessarily towards caffeine. What is next for Coca-Cola?