RESEARCH TECHNIQUES MATTER!
HOW COCA-COLA LEARNED THIS LESSON THE HARD WAY
In 1985, Coca-Cola brought “New Coke” to the market.
It was a reformulation of the blockbuster product’s taste, making it sweeter, more like Pepsi, which had been gaining market share.
The new taste had been extensively tested using consumer research—specifically “blind taste tests” in which subjects were asked to taste two generically labeled product samples and indicate which one they preferred.
One sample was the existing Coke product and the other one was the “New Coke” formula, though the subjects weren’t told that.
Subjects overwhelmingly indicated they preferred the “New Coke” formula and the researchers concluded New Coke would be a hit.
When the product was launched, the exact opposite occurred.
There was such backlash that the company had to bring back the original flavor as “Classic” Coke and eventually discontinue the new formulation altogether. This was a very expensive mistake considering they had spent millions of dollars to launch and market their new product.
WHAT WENT WRONG?
There are two morals to this story.
The first is that no research is perfect.
The second, however, is that the research techniques that are used matter a great deal.
Fortunately, there are specific methodologies that help ensure we talk to the right sample of customers and interact with them in a way that allows us to maximize the speed and accuracy of learning. You can read about them in my book, Winning Digital Customers, which you can order here.