Commentary

Talk About Strange Things: New Coke Coming Back For Guest Spot

In a new twist on making lemonade out of a lemon, Coca-Cola is reviving New Coke, one of the biggest bombs in marketing history, with a bit of fanfare. But then, quicker than you can say “the best-tasting cola in the history of … ever,” it will be gone again.

“‘Stranger Things’ season 3 is coming to Netflix this July 4, and it’s going to be set in the year 1985. As a period detail, the show is going to make reference to New Coke, a disastrous 1980s effort from Coca-Cola to update its namesake drink. For those not old enough to remember, New Coke was met with a massive consumer backlash and a very public climbdown by the company,” Peter Bright writes for Ars Technica.

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“But to commemorate New Coke's newfound pop culture relevance, Coca-Cola is going to sell 500,000 cans of New Coke as a Stranger Things tie-in,” he continues.

Coca-Cola yesterday tweeted a scene from the show featuring two characters toasting each other with New Cokes in a movie theater. It wrote: “Everyone: I don’t think Stranger Things can get any more 80’s. Stranger Things: Hold my New Coke… #StrangerThings3 #Enjoy.”

New Coke, in fact, ranked No. 9 on a 24/7 Wall St.compendium of the 100 top product launch blunders throughout history that was published last month. 

“Over the 15 years leading up to 1985, Coca-Cola’s flagship cola drink had been losing market share to Pepsi Cola. To compete, the company changed the drink’s formula for the first time in 99 years -- but the move today is considered one of the greatest flops of all time. New Coke was met with public outrage and lasted only a few months. The company reintroduced its older formula, rebranded as Coca-Cola Classic,” wrote Michael B. Sauter, Evan Comen, Thomas C. Frohlich and Samuel Stebbins.

(No. 1 on the 24/7 Wall St. list of bombs was the 2012 introduction of Google Glass. X, Google-parent Alphabet’s moonshot factory,  never gave up, however, and earlier this week it announced Glass Enterprise Edition.)

“Coca-Cola executives said the soda company hasn’t paid Netflix for product placement but has provided products for the show’s use. In preparation for the thriller’s third season, executives invited the crew to visit Coca-Cola’s Atlanta archives to study New Coke packaging, memorabilia and ads. Coke will pay a licensing fee to sell bottles and cans of regular Coke and Coke Zero Sugar carrying the ‘Stranger Things’ logo,” Jennifer Maloney reports for the Wall Street Journal.

“We are not taking any money for this,” Barry Smyth, Netflix’s head of global partner marketing, tells Maloney about on the placement. Nor will there be any vintage ads featuring New Coke’s pitchman, Bill Cosby, who is serving time for sexually assaulting a woman in 2004.

“The 12-ounce cans of New Coke, made from the same recipe that sparked the 1985 revolt, will go on sale at 5 p.m. ET [Thursday] at cokestore.com.  They'll be part of a bundle when shoppers buy at least two limited-edition ‘Stranger Things’ Coca-Cola or Coke Zero Sugar eight-ounce glass bottles,” Zlati Meyer writes  for USA Today.

“Free cans of New Coke will also be available for a limited time via an upside-down ‘Stranger Things’-inspired vending machine in select cities, starting Thursday in New York. And people who buy a ticket or gift at the World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta on certain days during the week of June 3 will have a chance to get New Coke cans as a gift, while supplies last,” Meyer adds.

“The return of the failed drink comes as Netflix ramps up its corporate partnerships and merchandising deals in an effort to recruit even more people to the streaming service, which has 149 million paid subscribers worldwide. Netflix said it had reached agreements with roughly 75 brands to spread the word about one of its biggest hits,” John Koblin writes for the New York Times.

“Because of the new push, which rivals the campaigns for summertime blockbusters, ‘Stranger Things’ may be hard to avoid in the coming weeks. H&M and other retailers will sell clothes that replicate what the show’s characters wear. Baskin-Robbins will serve new flavors referencing the program’s Scoops Ahoy ice cream parlor,” Koblin adds. “The more aggressive promotional strategy gives the streaming service a way to market its wares and generate a new revenue stream that doesn’t involve interrupting its shows with commercials.”

Or raising rates, which is not a popular deviation  from the norm either.

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