Coca-Cola brings back New Coke in partnership with Netflix’s ‘Stranger Things’
Coca-Cola is bringing back the one thing its fans never asked for in the first place.
In the summer of 1985 Coca-Cola made one of its biggest blunders, changing the formula of its flagship beverage, which it dubbed New Coke. The new version lasted just 79 days on the market and has become a cautionary tale for marketers. But the beverage giant is celebrating its mistake in a partnership with Netflix’s sci-fi thriller “Stranger Things.”
New Coke will be weaved through several episodes of the third season of the original series, bowing on July 4, which is set in the summer of 1985. And as part of the deal, Coca-Cola will bring back the beverage for a limited time.
While Netflix does not run ads in or around its programming—a pain for many advertisers eager to capitalize on the shift in consumer viewing behavior—it has embraced product placement in its original series, especially in “Stranger Things.” It started with Eggo Waffles, featured prominently in the season one storyline of “Stranger Things,” though Eggo did not know about the integration before the show debuted. But leading into season two, Eggo introduced a “Stranger Things” spoiler-blocker, recipes tied to each of the episodes, do-it-yourself costume pieces made with Eggo boxes, an Eggo waffle truck for the "Stranger Things" premiere and "Stranger Things" toasters and Eggo waffles.
The second season also featured an integration with KFC.
Barry Smyth, head of global partnership marketing at Netflix, says no money exchanged hands between Coke and Netflix and that the idea for the integration originated as a joke by “Stranger Things” creators and showrunners Matt and Ross Duffer.
“When we asked them, 'How can we blow Season 3 out of the water?' They said, 'Bring back New Coke',” Smyth says.
Netflix contacted Coca-Cola’s North America marketing team last year with the idea to incorporate New Coke into the storyline for season three. “After a bit of a head-scratch and 10 minutes of silence,” Smyth says, Coke embraced the opportunity.
Coca-Cola has been in conversations with Netflix for several years to find an organic way to work together on the non-ad-supported platform, says Geoff Cottrill, senior VP of strategic marketing, Coca-Cola North America.
Cottrill says he has been impressed by Netflix’s innovation and that the streamer “brought us one of the biggest ideas we have seen in quite some time.”
As for the decision to celebrate a time in Coke’s history that’s long been seen as its biggest mistake, Stuart Kronauge, president, sparkling business unit, Coca-Cola North America, says the company wanted to show it doesn’t take itself too seriously.
To achieve authenticity, Netflix executives visited Coke’s archives in Atlanta to study New Coke packaging, memorabilia and advertising to make sure the product was accurately reflected. It took six months to recreate the New Coke logo, retrieve the recipe and produce the product.
This is not the first time Coca-Cola will appear in “Stranger Things”: the beverage has been weaved into the show’s storyline since its first season. To date, Coca-Cola products, ads and logos have appeared more than a dozen times in the series.
As part of the partnership, the Duffer Brothers will also direct a Coke ad that features “Stranger Things” characters enjoying New Coke at a movie theater that will air online and in select cinemas starting on May 24. It’s the first-ever ad directed by the Duffer Brothers. The ad places the show’s cast in a 1980s Coca-Cola TV spot set to the original music.
New Coke will be available at CokeStore.com/1985 and in a “Stranger Things”-inspired vending machine that will pop up in select cities.