Friday, January 13, 2012

How The Cola Wars Proved You Can't Trust Anything From Anyone... Ever!

I’m a big fan of Coke Zero. It tastes like Coke, but 0 calories. Yum. Funny that, as Coke already had Diet Coke on the market for a very long time. Same product with all new marketing? Not exactly. I actually think it's an important thing though, so I’ll come back to that in a moment.

Firstly, I’m in “art mode” right now and am struggling to communicate via the written word. I’m still working on another cover that will probably take me through the weekend to get close to being good enough turn over to the respective persons that need to okay it. Then writer Rusty can wake up from hibernation and get back to work. Editor Rusty has no place in my life right now.  So he can die a thousand deaths for all I care.

Like a lot of men, I tend to compartmentalize things, and even though writing and designing/painting are creative endeavors, they seem to come from different areas in my head.  

Because right now, in my head, I’m thinking that I should be drawing a picture of this, not writing about it. Weird.

I’ll make mention that as of right now, I’m closing polling on my great cover question from Monday, where I solicited everyone’s opinion on whether or not I should replace my existing cover for A Dead God’s Wrath, which is suffering a bit from lackluster sales. I’m not fretting over it, because the amount of effort I’ve put into marketing that story is about as close to zero as a number can be without actually being zero. However, it did give me an excuse to whip out the old tablet and paint some. But I went all over that in Monday’s post.

The results:

I had 22 people respond to my question: Which cover should I use?

People who thought they were both so awesome that they would rather choose between their children than those two book covers (i.e., worried they’d offend me by choosing): 5

People who preferred the original cover: 16

People who preferred the new cover: 1

You know, back in the early eighties Coca-Cola had been tinkering with a new formula for their flagship drink. But it had been around - more or less unchanged - for decades and they were nervous about making changes to a much beloved product willy-nilly. These folks were no dummies, so they decided to do some research first.

Actually, that’s a bit of an understatement, they carried out the most extensive marketing research program in the history of the world to determine how the larger public would react to their new flavor for their drink. After it was all said and done they had an overwhelming response from the public. The new formula rocked, the old one was history.
It must be better. It's new!

So, they unveiled what is universally considered one of the largest disasters in the history of product rollouts. They labeled their product as ‘New Coke’ and quit selling the old stuff altogether. Pepsi celebrated by lighting Michael Jackson on fire, symbolic of the king of soda going up in flames (Don’t bother looking that up, that’s what happened, trust me).  Coke had a huge, and I mean huge, PR mess of their own making on their hands*. Well, actually, it was the fault of the people of America, who LOVED this New Coke more than anything ever made, until it actually hit the market, when they universally decided that they hated it.

The point? They lied. Not Coca-Cola, but the people who said they liked New Coke in the first place.

Not on purpose I’m sure, but the end result was the same. When you want to know what people want, ask them, then do the opposite of what they say. It works for product rollouts, it works for presidential candidates, and it works for book covers.

By my math, it’s 16-1 in favor of changing the book cover. Thanks everyone.**  

*Not entirely true, all those years of research that went into the formula for New Coke actually came from their introduction of Diet Coke. Which of course is why New Coke tasted like crap. It was just Diet Coke with sugar instead of aspartame as a sweetener. Coke Zero actually uses the formula for Coke (with artificial sweeteners instead of sugar, Diet coke still plugs away with the ‘New Coke’ formula)

** I’m kidding. I still might make the change, but it won’t be because I think everyone is lying. I’m not creating soft drinks here.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

You must be using new math.
The campaign was actually genius. Everyone rushed out to buy up the remaining original Coke. Then everyone rushed out to try the new Coke. Then they released the old Coke again and everyone rushed out to get it. I bet their sales went through the roof that year.

Rusty Webb said...

Your right, that's exactly what happened. But it really did get ugly - people were dumping the stuff in the streets in protests. Having a book burning can increase sales too, but I'm sure no publisher makes it part of their business strategy.

Grumpy Bulldog, Secret Agent said...

I like the Coke Zero too. It's a shame more restaurants don't carry it. Subway and Hardee's are about the only ones around here who have it. I think it's helped Coke Zero they didn't just get rid of Diet Coke. People fear change and don't like being told they MUST do something different. Maybe if they'd left the new Coke on the shelves alongside "Classic" Coke people would have accepted it better.

Grumpy Bulldog, Secret Agent said...

I would try that except it's hard to burn eBooks. And a mass deleting just wouldn't be very dramatic.

Michael Offutt, Visitor from the Future said...

I can't tell the difference between Coke Zero and Diet Coke.

Rusty Webb said...

Salsarita's carries it. If you're into faux Mexican the way I am. Yum. Chic fi lay carries it here too. So does Lenny's sub shop.

And after they reintroduced coke 'classic' they kept new coke around for a decade or so, just no one bought it - including retailers.

M Pax said...

lol I like your reasoning, Rusty. Choose the cover you think works best.

You're not alone. But we're just starting. So, keep going.

lol, Pepsi celebrated by lighting MJ on fire. Too funny. I remember that.

Ciara said...

I remember the 'NEW COKE' fiasco. It tasted horrible. Yuk! I was like, what were they thinking?
BTW - I guess I wasn't around for the vote. Sorry, I LOVE the original cover.

Rusty Webb said...

Thanks for stopping by. Everyone seemed to hate the new coke, well, except for Andrew, who can't comment on the new threaded comments section for some reason, but he emailed to let me know of his love for the New Coke.

Also, I appreciate the thought, I guess I'm just surprised at the overwhelming response. I thought the votes would be just a tad more evenly split.

Les said...

Going the safe route and saying that both the covers look pretty mad! The silhouette on the current one is rather striking, however.
In regards to my extended absence, uni rather pulled the time-rug from out under me. I may start drawing again, but making games is certainly my highest priority at the moment. (Also I'm super keen to check out your novelette! Is there anyway to read it without a kindle?)

Rusty Webb said...

Les! I do understand that we've got to have priorities, and blogging all the time can take away from other stuff.

And yes, you can get A Dead God's Wrath on the Nook, or Smashwords. A Smashwords you can get just about any format you want. Hell, if you go there I'll send you a coupon. Well, you'd have to give me your email address first.

Misha Gericke said...

Now that is an interesting idea. Anyone have a book based on censorship?

Anonymous said...

I actually Like Coke Zero. Its almost Coke. Every other kind of Coke sucks. And glad you're sticking with the original cover. Or am I?

Melissa Bradley said...

Not a Coke person. I've always been Pepsi chick. I only drink Coke when I'm sick or hungover. But I love how Coke used to have cocaine in it.

I rather like the original cover myself.

boopia said...

I am still lamenting the relatively infrequent availability of TAB.
But this was interesting, Rusty.
I am sorry I did not see your book cover. I loved the one you did for us.