Behind coke’s launch strategy; Coca-Cola chairman Goizueta outlines company’s new product thinking

Throw’em up and see if they stick.
Niche marketers have been doing that for years with their new products. Now Coca-Cola has adopted that strategy–at least for products that don’t carry the Coke name.
Speaking to analysts in New York, Coke chairman/ceo Roberto Goizueta said the company has decided that even if a new product enjoys only a short run, that beats maintaining a “passive” attitude that allows other firms to get a jump on new trends. He likened the approach to that of the Japanese, who develop and launch new products in rapid succession, but show no “pride of ownership” when it comes to giving them the hook once sales drop.
Take Tab Clear, which was on store shelves within 60 days of getting the corporate go-ahead, at a time that it seemed “clear colas were going to revolutionize the world,” in Goizueta’s phrase.
“Now both Tab Clear and Crystal Pepsi are about to die,” Goizueta said. Does that mean Tab Clear was a mistake? No. The drink provided Coca-Cola with some nice margins for as long as consumers have shown some interest in clear colas, he said. Drawing on its broad stable of products, Coca-Cola won’t hesitate to repeat such efforts in the future, he said.
None of this is meant to suggest that anything goes at Coke now. Research–or “presearch,” as Goizueta called it–still must demonstrate a demand for the product, so that Coca-Cola doesn’t unveil products–such as Nordic Mist–that are “behind the curve.” So the U.S. won’t see a cold-coffee drink, for instance, until there are signs that consumers want it.
And brand Coke itself is off-limits for such new products and extensions. “That’s why we didn’t have a Coke Clear,” Goizueta said. As for Tab Clear, when exactly will it have its last rites? Goizueta wasn’t saying. “As long as there are consumers who drink it, great,” he said.
Copyright Adweek L.P. (1993)