A Culture of Change | A Beverage Maker's Drink that Nearly Poisoned Them

Back in 1985, the “Hair Metal” scene coated LA’s Sunset Strip like a syrup, sticking to

everything. American culture had sparked a new appetite for music fans everywhere, and we saw tastes shifting from the Sex Pistols to Motley Crue. Unfortunately, a change in the syrup used to make America’s most iconic beverage, resulted in a bad hair day for the Coca-Cola Co. & left a bad taste in the mouth of die-hard Coke fans everywhere.

You may remember when Coca-Cola jumped higher than David Lee Roth and changed their 99-year-old formula.


Why would they do that?


Sales and consumer awareness were at a 15 year low. Changes were needed for the Coca-Cola Co. The changes they got weren’t the ones expected.


With a little over 200,000 taste tests conducted, Coke changed their proven formula and released “New Coke”. What Coca-Cola failed to account for, was a consumer bond stronger than Aqua-Net. Some would say Coke had an appetite for destruction while others could have told them they had another thing coming. Coke never asked their loyal customers. The day of release, fans wanted to shout at the devil, Coca-Cola Co.


Prior to releasing their new formula, Coke was averaging 400 phone calls a day. The day after the April 23, 1985 release of New Coke, those devoted consumers started shouting! Fans made over 1,500 calls giving Coke a piece of their mind. They didn’t want anyone, not even Coke, changing sumthin’ for nuthin’.


So what’s the take away here relating to change on an organizations culture?

Coke’s internal culture supported employees taking “Intelligent risks”. Executives felt this was critical to the company’s success. Introducing a new formula, executives thought, was an intelligent risk…it failed horrifically. Consumer backlash required immediate change; Coke couldn’t run to the hills.


What Coke did, was respond intelligently based upon the feedback received from their loyal customers.


79 days later, Coca-Cola brought back its original formula to the delight of consumers everywhere. They received 31,600 phone calls within 48 hours of doing so.

Coke proved they still could rock in America.


Are you capable of rapidly changing to meet the demands of your customers?


Would your corporate culture allow for rapid and necessary change?


See you next week!