A tradition worth fighting for

A tradition worth fighting for: applying a consensus-oriented public relations approach to the New Coke incident of 1985. In the case of post-crisis New Coke, Coca-Cola demonstrated its intention to right its strategic communication error – taking away the people’s Coke and replacing with a new product. When the public protested, they took a consensus-oriented public relations approach, following the concepts of Habermas. They took a major misstep in strategic communication and used it as an opportunity to regain the trust of its public. By ensuring intelligibility, truth, truthfulness and legitimacy, they got their public involved and on board and together, Coca-Cola and the people made the decision to bring back a mainstay of the American culture and lifestyle – Coca-Cola.

Please see references for this audio presentation at the bottom of this blog post.

In creating this presentation on New Coke, I learned much more about what went into the marketing decision of 1985 than I knew at the time of its occurrence. Back then, as a 13-year-old, I was simply flabbergasted. I couldn’t understand how a company could take away something the world and I depended on and throw it away for an alternative. Frankly it seemed sacrilegious.

In researching this project, however, I came to understand the reason Coke did what it did. By using scientific data from objective taste tests to try to determine why they were losing market share, Coke decided to change its formula to be competitive in the marketplace. Personally, I see their strategy as fear-based. To change the fundamental being of a company’s product to compete, more that to adapt to changing times, strikes me as inauthentic.

When it was announced that Old Coke was returning in the form of Coca-Cola Classic, I can only say that I felt huge relief. Although I have learned that many preferred New Coke, I did not. There is a theory that Coke planned the whole replacement of Coke with New Coke to hide the fact that the taste of Coca-Cola would be changing due to a switch to high fructose corn syrup as the sweetener for the product. Whether this is true or not, original Coke as it is produced today tastes well enough to satisfy me.

While crafting this project I gained new perspectives and great appreciation for the work of sociologists, such as Jurgen Habermas, whose work is helping to guide postmodern public relations best practices. I was happy to see in my research that not only did the Coca-Cola Company listen to its public, they seemed to take them seriously and engage in discourse that resulted in a collaborative decision for the direction of the company.

Regarding media production and the creation of this post. I learned more about audio editing doing this project and realize that I am beginning to get more comfortable with it. I have gained confidence and skill that a few years ago I would never have thought I could have. I look forward to doing more with audio editing and podcasting. The most complicated part is getting the timing just right. And I have learned there are two ways to edit. One is on paper before recording a presentation, and the other is in the audio app. In this presentation I used a combination, editing in the two media. I have more work to do on timing and much to learn about audio editing.

For this project, however, I did not have to push myself much beyond my previous skills in media production, but since beginning the Master of Communication program at Queens, I have had to challenge my media production skills in numerous ways. I can build websites, blog, even amateurishly produce magazines and edit video, but I could not use PowerPoint proficiently or an audio program, such as Audacity. Now, after several classes at Queens, I have learned, for the sake of being able to produce assignments, to record audio and export it, link it to Power Point, time slides and export as a movie, thereby producing a video presentation, viewable online. This is a great skill to have and I look forward to polishing it and using it in the future to create online presentations and online courses on dream work.


Allen, F. J. (1995). Secret formula: how brilliant marketing and relentless salesmanship made Coca-Cola the best-known product in the world. New York: HarperBusiness.

Burkart, R., (2009). On Habermas: understanding and public relations. In O. Ihlen, B. van Ruler, & M. Fredriksson (Eds.), Public Relations and Social TheoryKey figures and concepts. (pp. 141-165) New York: Routledge.

CBS Evening News [CBS Evening News]. (2015, April 23]. New coke: coca-cola’s 77-day product disaster. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/TqvTMPY8Q_8

Ihlen, O., van Ruler, B., & Fredriksson, M. (2009). Public Relations and Social Theory: Key figures and concepts. New York: Routledge.

McArthur, J. A. (2014). Planning for strategic communication: a workbook for applying social theory to professional practice. Atascadero, CA: CreateSpace.

Whistler, S. [Today I Found Out]. (2016, December 27). Why coke tried to switch to new coke. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/CJt9JkqQYeI

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