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12 Aug / Brand Loyalty: How Strong is it Really?

There is no company better than Coca-Cola who understands the power of brand loyalty. Since its creation in 1886, it has become of the most well loved brands today, with the average person consuming a Coke product every four days. But what separates Coke from the rest? Its brilliant branding. Americans who drink Coke not only consume it for its taste, but also for the brand built around it: happiness. With good times and nostalgic memories built right into the brand image of their beverage, Coca-Cola has had considerable success marketing towards the heartstrings of Americans.

Still, what happened when Coke’s branding changed so drastically that its loyal followers were shaken? This is exactly what happened in 1985 when the Coca-Cola Company released the “New Taste of Coke” on April 23rd. The company announced it was replacing its original formula with a newer, sweeter version. What followed was one of the worst blunders in marketing history. By underestimating the country’s sentimental attachment to the iconic brand, Coca-Cola had outraged their loyal customers. More than 400,000 calls and letters were sent to the company, with upset Americans expressing disappointment and anger over the formula switch. With such bad press, it’s no surprise that Coke announced the return of Coca-Cola “Classic” just three months later.

What’s intriguing, however, is that consumers actually preferred New Coke to Coke’s original formula in blind taste tests. So what were Americans really so upset about: the taste of the newer formula, or the change in such a sentimentally tied product? After such a tremendous reaction, all we know for sure is that Coca-Cola won’t dare to change its famous formula ever again.

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