In 1985, the 100th Anniversary of the formulation of Coca-Cola, the company decided to change it's secret formula to a sweeter version called New Coke. Initially the new product resulted in an 8% increase in sales, but that was soon eclipsed by a consumer backlash. After being off the market for less than three months, the original formula was released again, this time labeled "Coca-Cola Classic".
Or was it the original formula? As it turns out, the previous formula had used cane sugar, and the new "classic" formula replaced that with cheaper High Fructose Corn Syrup (as New Coke had done as well). In addition, at this time all Coca derivatives were removed from the formula as well. Go buy a Coke in Mexico, and you'll taste the difference.
Thanks to the old bait-and-switch, and perhaps the Sensation Transference phenomenon, people were largely fooled into thinking the new Coke Classic was the same formula used before the release of New Coke. The "reversion" to the classic formula resulted in a much larger spike to sales than the introduction of New Coke ever did. New Coke was renamed "Coke II" in 1992, and discontinued in the US in 2002. In 2009, the word "Classic" was removed from the Coca-Cola Classic cans, because it was believed to be confusing to the younger generation.
Conspiracy theories allege the New Coke was intended to fail from the start. In these theories, the new product was intended to hide the changes to the classic formula, or it was intended as a coy marketing move to paint Coca-Cola as the company that listens to it's customers. As evidence, consider that in under three months, the Coca-Cola company not only conducted market research and responded to customer demands, but also managed to reformulate the classic flavor with different ingredients, and get it distributed throughout the country all over again - almost as though they already had the new "classic" ready to go.
Game and Story Use
- In a Cyberpunk campaign, you could use New Coke as a parallel for some marketing campaign or sneaky trick of some MegaCorp.
- Of course, in such a setting, the reformulated product would probably have addictive or mutagenic properties. They may even be putting the cocaine back in.
- And the Cola Wars would involve paramilitary units.
- Perhaps the DEA pressured Coke into removing the Coca from the Cola.
- This being an RPG campaign we're talking about, you could have there be a connection between a soda company and a drug cartel. The transition to or from a coca-based product could result from conflict between corporate executivess and drug lords.
- And this being the 1980s we're talking about, perhaps The A-Team has to fight against those drug lords for the sake of coca-cola and the good ol' U.S. of A.!
- In Suppressed Transmission, Hite devotes three pages to Coca Cola (new and old), and it's alchemical, magical, and conspiratorial implications. The point is, Coke and it's secret formula may have magical or symbolic effects, and may even qualify as a Potion. The temporary transition to New Coke may have altered the world in some fundamental way.
- The players have accidentally entered another dimension or parallel world, and their first clue is that the soda they came with their "meal deal" tastes like "new coke". Aside from whatever else has changed, this world is just fundamentally wrong!