Don't mess with perfection
Published April 5, 2006
E. Neville Isdell
Chief Executive Officer
The Coca-Cola Company
Dear Mr. Isdell,
I realize everyone can have an off-period now and then, even in the business world.
Take the shoe market, for instance. Several years ago, women’s shoes went through an ugly phase. They were all clunky and only came in two colors: black or brown. We women bought and wore them because it’s all we had, but the return of cute shoes a couple of years ago was ushered in with great rejoicing.
Now, the “ugly phase” seems to have hit the carbonated beverage market. Not since the New Coke debacle of the ‘80s have your company’s offerings seemed so... well, flat.
For example, Black Cherry Vanilla Coke. Cherry Coke is great. Vanilla Coke is OK. But Black Cherry Vanilla tastes like someone poured cough syrup into the soda fountain. I could mix Coke with cherry Nyquil at home and get the same effect. Plus I’d have a nice nap afterward.
But what’s really got me scratching my head is the new Coca-Cola product released this week called “Coca-Cola Blak.”
Coca-Cola Blak is — readers, brace yourselves — Coke with coffee in it.
Here’s a description of the beverage I found on your company’s web site:
“Coca-Cola Blak is a sophisticated, premium blend of Coca-Cola, natural flavors and coffee essence. The effervescence and rich flavor provide the perfect pick-me-up for people looking for new ways to stay refreshed any time of the day or night.”
First, I looked up the word “effervescence.” I only found an entry for the verb “effervesce.” It says, “To bubble, hiss and foam as gas escapes.”
Mr. Isdell, I am not going to go there.
Next, I decided to try Coca-Cola Blak. I have secured a four-pack from our local Target, and I’m going to take a sip right now.
Hmm. Cold, carbonated coffee. “Blak,” a word your company has invented, is a whole lot like the word “Blecch,” which is about how I’m feeling right now.
I’ll have another taste just to be fair.
Nope. I can’t do this. It tastes too much like something I threw up in college after trying to over-caffeinate myself for a late-night study session.
I put the bottles in the fridge for my husband, who — bless his heart — will consume just about anything.
Your company has also jumped on the energy drink bandwagon. I have managed to steer clear of these so far. I did notice, however, that our local bowling alley is offering Red Bull (not a Coca-Cola Company beverage) mixed with vodka for $3 a pop. I don’t know how something like this could sell at a bowling alley. It could hardly be conducive to rolling a weighty ball down a narrow lane to knock down some pins. Such a feat requires things like motor skills and presence of mind.
What kind of slogan could accompany Red Bull and vodka? How about: “Red Bull and vodka gives you wings... and a DWI on the way home from league night.”
I know you’re just trying to give consumers what they want. Well, I’ll tell you what I want. I want pure, unadulterated Coca-Cola in glass bottles — the way they sell them at George Daniels Meat Market here in Baytown. As your company learned about 20 years ago, it doesn’t pay to mess with perfection.
Thank you for your time,