The story of American capitalism is told by its spectacular failures as much as its successes — if only because the duds force manufacturers or consumers to refocus on core products. Ford’s Edsel. Sony’s Betamax. The DeLorean. Zima. The World Football League. Those are just a few. Today, we commemorate another.
Thirty-three years ago today, Coca-Cola introduced what became known as New Coke. According to the company’s official story, the beverage maker that day “took arguably the biggest risk in consumer goods history.” The tinkering that created New Coke represented the first change in the drink’s patented, famously guarded formula in 99 years. Coca-Cola says that at the time its “reformulated” Coke was intended to “re-energize” its flagship product after 15 consecutive years of declining sales.
Last November Joe Nocera of Bloomberg News wrote a column about marketing guru Harold Burson, who right after World War II founded one of New York’s top advertising firms, and who helped Coke launch its retooled drink. Burson told Nocera that Coke CEO Roberto Goizueta realized Pepsi would soon overtake his company in sales. So they decided to make New Coke more sugary to mimic Pepsi. It flopped. Coke’s website says the drink “spawn(ed) consumer angst the likes of which no business has ever seen.” Within 79 days, Coke reverted to its old formula and remained that way — although New Coke survived until 2002.
Goizueta maintained New Coke was an example of an “intelligent risk,” Coke’s formal history says. But when people were outraged by the change, Burson told Nocera how he outlined the company’s escape route for Goizueta: “We have to beg for forgiveness. We have to be humble. We gotta eat (expletive).”
GARLAND: Speaking of eating, Manny’s Chophouse has been a Polk County staple for hungry carnivores for 13 years. Now, he’s taking his brand into neighboring Orange and Osceola, where new franchises will soon open. We applaud owner Manny Nikolaidis. Always nice to see local folks do good.
GARLAND: Speaking of doing good, we salute Lakeland city staffer Jonathan Turbeville. Turbeville was working with his utilities crew near Lake Parker last month when he spotted a man chest deep in the water. Sensing a problem, Turbeville braved the chilly lake and pulled the unidentified man, who sported a hospital wristband on his arm, to safety. Well done, Jonathan.