‘Stranger Things’ have happened: Inside New Coke’s limited-edition comeback

May 22, 2019

The much-ballyhooed New Coke brand only was around for 79 days in 1985. Chances are it won’t last nearly as long in 2019—but for much different reasons, the Atlanta-based company says.

That’s right, the ill-fated brand considered by many to be one of the biggest-ever marketing mishaps is making a brief comeback this summer for a (very) limited promotional run through a first-of-its-kind partnership between Coca-Cola and Netflix’s popular series, Stranger Things. Fans of the series  will travel back to “the summer that changed everything” – 1985 – when season 3 of the show hits the streaming platform on July 4.

And beyond appearing prominently on-screen throughout the season, New Coke will be available in the “real world” beginning Thursday, May 23, at 5 p.m. (ET), when Coca-Cola will release a limited number of 12-oz. cans of New Coke–yes, the same recipe from 1985 –as part of a bundle when shoppers buy at least two limited-edition Stranger Things Coca-Cola or Coke Zero Sugar 8-oz. glass bottles at CokeStore.com/1985.

The idea for the 2019 limited run of New Coke started when Netflix contacted Coca-Cola’s North America marketing team last year with news that the next season of Stranger Things would take place in the summer of 1985, and that they wanted to authentically incorporate New Coke into the storyline.

“When Netflix told us Season 3 was going to be set in the summer of 1985 –with the tagline that ‘one summer could change everything’– that rang so true for us,” said Oana Vlad, director of Coca-Cola Trademark, Coca-Cola North America. “The summer of 1985 did in fact change everything for us with the introduction of New Coke, which was also arguably one of the biggest pop culture moments of that year.”

Coca-Cola invited Netflix to visit the Coca-Cola archives in Atlanta to study New Coke packaging, memorabilia, advertising and more, in order to ensure that the Stranger Things script accurately reflected historical events—and that all props and visuals stayed true to the time period.

As Vlad and her colleagues started to see how prominently the brand would feature in the Stranger Things narrative, they decided to go “all in” and resurrect the dormant drink.

“Ultimately, we looked around the room and said, ‘Why wouldn’t we do this?’” Vlad recalled. “No one would have ever thought we’d produce New Coke again after what happened in 1985, but we all agreed that if we wanted to partner with Netflix and Stranger Things in a truly culturally relevant way that would resonate with our fans – and theirs – then we had to make the New Coke story come to life.”

For the Coca-Cola North America design team, the journey back to 1985 meant exploring the archives for vintage New Coke cans and other analog documentation.

“There were no Adobe Illustrator files back then – and not as much printing standardization – so we had to start the design process from scratch,” recalls Elyse Larouere, senior designer, Coca-Cola Trademark.

Larouere and her team took steps to preserve the original New Coke aesthetic, meticulously recreating the logo and mimicking the slightly different Coke red used more than three decades ago.

“We wanted to honor both our heritage and the Duffer Brothers’ commitment to authenticity,” she added. “Stranger Things fans love the nostalgic vibe of the show, so to be able to bring New Coke back to life in a physical way takes the experience to another level. We hope people who remember New Coke can relive those memories, and those like me who weren’t alive in 1985 can appreciate the fact that a show that honors cultural icons of the time is honoring this one.”

“New Coke taught us that our fans are extremely passionate about our brand and great taste,” Vlad said. “That passion has helped propel Coke to the iconic brand it is today and encourages us to continue to do big things to connect with our fans. It’s not about a ‘mistake’… it’s what we learned and the incredible cultural resonance of Coca-Cola.”

Research contact: @CocaCola

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