Lessons Learned from the New, New Coke

I remember when Coke announced the “new Coke”—the first time. Well, at least the first time in my marketing memory.  As a Coke drinker, I didn’t know what to think.  Until I tasted it; then I knew I didn’t like it.
Still, I gave it a try. I was more adventurous back then.  Since then I haven’t really tried many of the new Coke’s or new Coke products (except Cherry Coke).  Those I have tried haven’t been “it.”
Unlike many of its other consumers, I had no problem trying the old Coke in a new can.  According to Nick Carbone’s piece posted on Time Magazine, The New New Coke? Coca Cola Ditches White Cans After One Month,” I may be one of the few Coke drinkers receptive to the new Coke receptacle.  My biggest worry was making sure not to accidentally grab Diet Coke: I prefer to have all of my calories. So, I was careful to read the can.
I started drinking the old Coke in the new can even before I learned of Coke’s campaign to donate money to save the polar bears.  The campaign itself is a big deal. It’s a good cause and a bold move: changing the way you look is always a bold move no matter what the cause.  I was surprised to learn this cosmetic change didn’t go over with other Coke drinkers. Not because of the cause, but the causes.
According to the article, besides a potential health risk to those reaching for Coke when they meant to reach for Diet Coke, many Coke drinkers believe the old Coke in a new can is actually the new Coke in a new can.
Carbone summarizes the lesson of the Coke Can Conspiracy “…is that we fear change, even if it’s for a good cause.” I think we learn another lesson here, not so much about fearing change but about perceptions of change.
Whether the recipe has changed or not, Coke says it didn’t. Those who taste a difference may taste the perception of change. It’s in the presentation. Remember the Cosby episode when Vanessa introduces her fiancée to the family? Cliff compares her presentation of her beau to offering someone a delicious steak upon the lid of a trash can.
Coke listened to its consumers, even though we kept drinking Coke.  Coke is changing their cans back to red. To consumers the taste of the old Coke will likely return with the new cans—whether it really does or not. It’s pretty cool that the change is not necessarily driven by sales but by logic.
The lesson here may not be the fear of change or fear of the perception of change; it may be to remember the power of perception and the power of the consumer to inspire change.
Listen to your consumers ,not just to the sounds of the cash register.
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