Engaging CultureStrategy & Marketing

How to Fix a Big Failure

It’s been nearly 40 years since the introduction of New Coke.  Remember that?  It was introduced with big hopes because New Coke had actually beaten both Pepsi and Classic Coke in head to head taste tests.  But once it hit the market, it crashed.  Sales spiked at first because it was something novel, and people were willing to give it a shot, but the nose dive soon began.

But kudos to the company.  Once they realized they had made a mistake, they quickly turned the ship.  In only 77 days, they re-stocked stores across the country with Coke Classic, and then company President Donald Keough even followed up with an actual appearance on national TV admitting they were wrong.

People were so happy with Coke’s quick response, sales and market share increased dramatically.

The lesson?  Mistakes happen, even when all the research and planning looks positive.  But when for whatever reason you realize the error, fix it fast.  Assure your customers or donors you realize what happened, and are working to make a change.  The worst thing you can do is hide, be vague, or pretend it never happened.

When it comes to integrity and credibility, there’s nothing quite as reassuring to the public as admitting the mistake, making corrections, and taking responsibility.

I just wish politicians understood that principle.

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  1. The more I think about it, the more I believe the conspiracy theorists that say “New Coke” was simply a mask so consumers wouldn’t notice the change from CocaCola (with cane sugar) to Coke Classic (with corn syrup). Make sense to me.

    And it would also explain the quick turn around to get Coke Classic on the market. It was all part of the plan (cue evil laughter).

  2. I agree!

    The whole excercise way back then was to manipulate the media into focussing attention on their product. Creating fake controversy put them into the public spotlight for months on end.

    See how succesful they were. Here we are still talking about it.

    Sip…Sip… whoops! I think that might have been Cool Aid!

  3. I wish Pastors would do that today! But then that would show that they are human. Pssss…Secret’s out, we already knew…

  4. The famous quote from that experience by the Coke CEO at the time:  “We’re not that smart, and we’re not that dumb.”

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