OK Soda was a soft drink created by Coca-Cola in 1993 that aggressively courted the Generation X demographic with unusual advertising tactics, including endorsements and even outright negative publicity. It did not sell well in select test markets and was officially declared out of production in 1995 before reaching nation-wide distribution.
The drink’s slogan was ‘Things are going to be OK.’ The project was cancelled by Coca-Cola just seven months after its kickoff, and the soft drink was never widely released to the public.
In 1993, Coca-Cola CEO Roberto Goizueta rehired Sergio Zyman to be the chief of marketing for all Coca-Cola beverage brands, a surprising choice given that Zyman had worked closely with the New Coke campaign, possibly the largest advertising failure in Coke’s history. However, after revamping the can design and print advertising campaigns for Diet Coke and Coca-Cola Classic with great success, Zyman was given free rein to design new products with aggressive, offbeat marketing campaigns.
International market research done by The Coca-Cola Company in the late 1980s revealed that ‘Coke’ was the second most recognizable word across all languages in the world. The first word was ‘OK.’ Zyman decided to take advantage of this existing brand potential and created a soft drink with this name. He conceived of a counter-intuitive advertising campaign that intentionally targeted people who didn’t like advertising. He predicted that the soft drink would be a huge success, and promised Goizueta that the soft drink would take at least 4% of the US beverage market.
Both the cans and the print advertisements for the soft drink featured work by popular ‘alternative’ cartoonists Daniel Clowes and Charles Burns. They would sometimes contain messages from the ‘OK Manifesto,’ which was a series of platitudes about OK-Ness, pithy thought reform sayings with no real meaning, much in the style of doublespeak in Nineteen Eighty-Four, mocking traditional advertisement slogans or catch-phrases.
After its failure, OK Soda enjoyed a brief cult following on the Internet. Fans would reminisce about the offbeat advertising materials, sell merchandise and intact cans, and trade recipes for home-brewed OK Soda facsimiles. It is still referenced in hipster crowds as an example of large corporations attempting to connect with youth markets and failing.