Coca-Cola's (KO) bold move of distributing seasonal white cans of regular Coke has been met with a host of negative public responses ranging from confusion to distaste -- literally.

The company says this year's design was meant to raise awareness about the dangers of global warming to polar bears and their habitat, part of the company's partnership with the World Wildlife Fund. The white cans were meant to be reminiscent of snowy days.

It turns out they were reminiscent of something else: Diet Coke.

Customers have complained that the wintry Coke cans look too much like Diet Coke cans, with some small businesses reporting that opened sodas were being returned once purchasers realized the contents weren't what they expected. One diabetic Diet Coke drinker told ABC News that she drank a whole can and "wondered why it tasted so good" before realizing that she'd purchased three six-packs of regular Coke instead of diet.

A Matter of Taste

Incredibly, others claimed that the Coke in the seasonal cans "tasted different" than Coke in red cans, with one couple posting a video on YouTube in which the wife did a blind taste test and identified the Coke from the white can as "the funky one."

Others simply called the color change "blasphemy" and criticized the company for straying to far from its "classic" design. In the wake of the grassroots backlash, Coke announced that it would soon be releasing red seasonal cans that will also include polar bear images. The company claims it's likely that the white cans will be completely phased out in favor of the red cans by February.

Ye Olde Coke

Perhaps these reactions shouldn't be a surprise to Coca-Cola. Unlike PepsiCo (PEP), which is branded as a "young" and "fresh" brand, Coca-Cola relies heavily on nostalgia and its "classic" image. Who could forget the New Coke fiasco of the 1980s, when the company attempted to switch up its soda formula? Consumers would have none of it.

While special seasonal designs have long been utilized by the company to generate customer excitement, its brand limits what it can do to maintain loyalty while getting people excited. This latest design generated a lot of buzz -- but not the response Coca-Cola was looking for.

Jim Royal, Ph.D., does not own shares of any company mentioned here. The Motley Fool owns shares of Coca-Cola and PepsiCo. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of PepsiCo and Coca-Cola. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a diagonal call position in PepsiCo.


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wdcarterjr

There are products that consumers have come to rely on. Comsumers have come to trust that Coke is in a red can. There are automatic purchases. Long time loyal consumers expect things to remain the same. Companies spend a lot of money to develop brand loyalty. If BMW, Nike, Apple or Cadallic changed their logo every year they would loose identifiable references for their consumers. Red cans are that identifiable reference for classic coke. Loosing that reference causes the consumer to reevaluate the purchase, which is not what a produce manager wants them to do.

December 30 2011 at 5:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to wdcarterjr's comment
wdcarterjr

Sorry; PRODUCT MANAGER

December 30 2011 at 5:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
sherry.lamb

I think it is ridiculous that the general public felt such a need to create such an uproar over a can that was just meant to be around for a limited time anyway. For crying out loud it is a can, and was just a cute way of telling the world about the polar bear awareness. Some people just want to find something to complain about! Also it is not Coke's fault that someone who is diabetic drank the soda without having investigated the package first! Why should it be a corporations responsibility to make sure we are taking care of our selves, and wiping ourselves and washing our hands after we potty. I don't know how many times I have gotten hom and discovered I bought caffeine free coke instead of regualr coke, but it is not Coke's fault I did that. I am responsible for myself! what a wimpy whiny society we live in where we are always blaming someone else or something else for our own problems!

December 29 2011 at 3:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
soundontherun

i aggree its very confuseing they cound have done it with white on red. but some overpaid corprate idiot decided

December 20 2011 at 10:51 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
hgeorgech

Isn't it amazing that large corporations, like Coca Cola, that employ highly paid marketing types who could, should determine - firsthand - acceptability (aka Market Research) from the buying public BEFORE launching ANY change to packaging, content of their products?

This happens far too frequently (not only Coca Cola) .. products come on the market that turn out to be duds or at best fall WAY short of sales expectations!

The white can / confusion with Diet Coke is a far too obvious example .. however, the "New Coke" fiasco brought out decades ago was a complete disaster and cost the corporation Million$ in lost sales ... do your homework FIRST before springing change on the buying public ...

December 20 2011 at 10:36 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
bunnyfunny47

Coke is loaded with sugar, and bad for you anyway. It's a Dentist best friend. Give it to your kids and then wonder why they are climbing the walls. Even diet does nothing for you if your trying to take off those extra lbs.

December 20 2011 at 9:28 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
bunnyfunny47

It's not global warming, not in the regular sense anyhow. (Cause and Effect)
What it is, is all this nuclear fall out along with two other factors.
One Polar Shift, whereas the North Pole is shifting about 40 miles a year towards Russia, Global Rebound from all the ice melting at the poles giving this planet one hell of a belly bulge. YouTube Scott Bug sometime and just maybe you'll learn a few things. Ever hear about Chemtrails, HAARP and some of this other stuff going on behind the scenes most have no idea about.

December 20 2011 at 9:22 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
bunnyfunny47

What the heck! It's been on TV ad's and all over the place, regular Coke was going to be in white cans.
Just goes to show people don't bother to read anymore.

December 20 2011 at 9:12 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Rob

Most people don't stop to read the can or carton of a well established iconic drink. They walk into the supermarket and pick up the case according to color. Coke knows this, Pepsi knows this. Some marketing folks thought it would be cool but forget to think about shopping habits. A white polar bear on a red can would have been more in line with the years of product identification by Coke.

December 20 2011 at 7:48 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
clktow1

ITS FUNNY HOW MANY DUMB ASSES ARE OUT THERE AND WANT TO BLAME OTHER PEOPLE FOR THEIR STUPIDTY, READ WHAT YOUR BUYING. DONT BLAME THE COMPANY BECAUSE YOU DIDNT READ THE LABLE. AND WHO'S FAULT IS THAT!. I LIKE THE CAN AND THE POLAR BEARS. ITS THE NORTH POLE AND THATS WHERE SANTA COMES FROM, SO I THINK IT STILL HAS SOME HOLIDAY SPIRIT.

December 20 2011 at 2:15 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
Irene Pine

GOBAL WARMING IS A HOAX WHY IS COKE MAKING( MEANING COKE LOVERS) US BUY THE CRAP WHEN WE DONT WANT TO . I LOVE COKE, I LOVV IT WHEN COKE PUTS SANTA CLAUS ON TH COKE PRODUCTS DDURING CHRISTMAS NOT A POLAR BEAR FOR A HOAXX THAT I DO NOT BELEIVE IN OR SUPPORT. FUNNY I BELEIE MOR IN SANTA CLAUS THAN DUMB GOBAL WARMING. READ ALL TH SCIENTIST WHO LIED AND DID SO WRING IN REPORTING LIS ABOUT TH SUPPOSED WARMING. COKE GO BACK TO SANTA CLAUS

December 19 2011 at 11:08 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply