On July 4th the third season of Stranger Things dropped on Netflix. For those of you who haven’t yet watched the whole season, don’t worry. Nothing here will spoil your viewing experience. One scene, though, bears special mention here, as it relates to business here at the Rock Hill Coca-Cola Bottling Company. In one exchange set in a grocery store, monster-battler Lucas Sinclair is seen drinking a New Coke. While the others are dismayed, Lucas obviously loves it. What follows is a several minutes long discussion of New Coke. For viewers who lived through the cola wars of the 1980s, the scene is funny and nostalgic. Anyone born after 1977, though, might be a little bit puzzled. Some context is in order.
New Coke Introduced
On April 23rd, 1985, the Coca-Cola Company introduced a new formula for Coke, coinciding with the 100 year anniversary of the initial invention of the drink. Reactions were immediate and intense. Many, like Lucas on Stranger Things (the season takes place around July 4th, 1985), enjoyed the New Coke formula. Many more, however, wanted their beloved soft drink back. Calls and letters flooded the Coca-Cola offices. The reaction was so intense, in fact, that the original formula would be back in production a mere 79 days after the launch of New Coke. Dubbed Coca-Cola Classic, the new old drink would push Coca-Cola’s sales through the roof.
People Loved Their Coca-Cola
So why the hubbub? Why did it matter to people so much? Donald Keough, Coca-Cola Company president from 1981-1993, explained it this way: “The simple fact is that all the time and money and skill poured into consumer research on the new Coca-Cola could not measure or reveal the deep and abiding emotional attachment to original Coca-Cola felt by so many people.” In short, Coke was and is a deeply important part of people’s lives. We’ve always known that at the Rock Hill Coca-Cola Bottling Company.
New Coke would remain in the product line-up for a few years, with a name change to Coke II after a while. By 2002, production ceased completely on the line.
Remember Max Headroom?
New Coke did one great thing for American pop culture. Trying to market it to a younger crowd, Coke developed a wildly fun ad campaign featuring Max Headroom. C-c-c-c-c-catch the wave!