COKE'S RETURN

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The word last week from Belgium, where brand juggernaut Coca-Cola was knocked askew-and off store shelves-by a product contamination scare, was finally turning positive. That's the good news. It's also the start of what should be a thorough review inside Coca-Cola Co.-and at other marketers-over the high price Coke is paying for its initially tentative response.

Much of that examination will involve the role CEOs must personally play when their priceless brand image is suddenly in trouble (see Forum on Page 34). Coca-Cola CEO Douglas Ivester was absent from view in the critical first days of the crisis, although he was on the scene in Belgium and France last week to personally represent the brand.

As inquiries in Europe play themselves out, Coke's marketers face what few would have dreamed of after the New Coke fiasco in the U.S.-reintroducing the world's most famous brand. They apparently, and wisely, are thinking big. At a press conference, Mr. Ivester said he's prepared to buy everyone in Belgium a free Coke. That's a good start, but why Coke got itself in this spot is still the big