July 11, 1985: New Coke canned as Coca-Cola's new formula is deemed a marketing disaster

Coca-Cola’s bold decision to overhaul its 100-year-old fizzy drink recipe backfired as the company chose to bring back its original secret formula following a public outcry.

Last updated: 9 July 2018 - 4.21pm

On this day in 1985, soft drink giant Coca-Cola announced that it would be bringing back ‘Classic Coca-Cola’ to be sold alongside the widely-hated ‘New Coke’.

New Coke had been launched just three months earlier, on April 23, and rapidly became one of the most controversial products ever launched.

Coca-Cola chairman CEO Roberto Goizueta (pictured below at the New Coke launch with company president Donald Keough) had decided on the radical move to change the drink’s recipe in an attempt to claw back market share from competitor Pepsi. The other, more sweet-tasting cola was winning the so-called Cola Wars, and so the sweeter New Coke was created in response.

Robert C. Goizueta, Coca-Cola's chairman and CEO and Donald R. Keough, President and COO, toast the New Coke at its launch.

The gamble saw consumers flocking to complain, writing angry letters and phoning the company hotline in their thousands to reject the changed taste of their favourite beverage.

[January 24, 1984: Apple sparks home computing revolution with launch of Macintosh]

In July, Coca-Cola apparently caved in and announced that the old recipe, dubbed Coca-Cola Classic, would be returning to shelves alongside the drink that had been intended to replace it. Sales of the original Coke surged, and New Coke was rebranded as Coke II before eventually being quietly discontinued.

The company has always denied that the entire New Coke fiasco was in fact a marketing stunt, but theories persist that Coca-Cola always intended to whip up outrage among its faithful fans in order to win back market share.

New Coke became part of history as a byword for marketing disaster, a cautionary tale for any big business considering trying something different. However, despite the extremely negative public response, New Coke had no lasting impact on the company’s fortunes and in fact is considered to have revitalised the brand.

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