New Coke Didn’t Fail. It Was Murdered

This article about the brief history of New Coke is actually kindof fascinating.

Coke executives, in their D-Day planning, always expected a small but vocal faction of Never-Cokers. What they miscalculated was the effect that those people would have on neutrals. Nine out of 10 Coke drinkers might have no problem with the change if you asked them individually. But put them in a room, and then put Andy Rooney in that room, and suddenly four of them are banging their fists on the table and talking about glass bottles. That’s how social influence works. It’s how containable brush fires become a blowup.

And Coke certainly didn’t count on the backlash linking up with larger currents of grievance in American life. Listen again to the words people used to describe how they felt—“heritage,” “freedom,” “tradition,” “American,” “Yuppies,” “tofu,” “New York,” “green pasta.” (Green pasta?)

This is how people talk when they’re channeling their resentment at something big into anger at something small. They invoke tradition when someone proposes a new taste, or when the tastes of some different audience or some new generation are appealed to. The dynamic is at the heart of basically every American culture war battle. The language can’t help but reveal its origins: a sense of dispossession on the part of people who possess plenty. Unhappy that the modern world no longer fully indexes itself to their preferences, they express their frustration in a way that only a largely unthreatened group would have the time for.

2 thoughts on “New Coke Didn’t Fail. It Was Murdered

  1. Mark

    This is fascinating…. how much academic effort is channeled through these odd pop culture moments.

    Also this line, “And since when has a country club discriminated against something for no good reason!”

  2. currants

    That’s a jewel, esp the last parag of your excerpt. I’d like to think it’s about a neutral enough subject that it might prompt folks to, you know, self-reflect…heh.

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