One of the most famous attempts at market research that ultimately went awry can be found in the Coca-Cola Company. In the year 1985, the executives within the company decided to enact a program where they would begin market research to examine the ways in which they could change the Coca-Cola formula into something else called ”New Coke” in an effort to win the ongoing “Cola Wars” against Pepsi.
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According to McWilliams, the ill-fated plan started with a marketing research team that wanted to examine the ways in which potential customers would respond to the taste of New Coke. The research program was designed to be delivered ethically and quite simply: the individuals who were on the research team would interview consumers and have them taste the new formula for Coca-Cola (McWilliams, 2010). Following the taste sample, the consumers were asked quite simply whether or not they would buy the new soda product if it were offered to them. This simple means of data collection was predicated on the idea that the only deciding factor in whether consumers decided to buy a soda was whether they enjoyed the taste. Sadly, that was not the case, and it spawned outright protests as the old formula was taken off shelves for a brief time, culminating in one of the most poorly thought-out marketing research attempts ever.
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Balmer examined the failure of Coca-Cola to capture its market audience, and suggested that the idea that tastes alone was the selling factor for Coca-Cola was terribly under-researched beforehand. Balmer suggested that the further dismissal of the old brand flavor contributed to the failed research method and made New Coke fail (2009, p. 544). Torres and Tribó also suggested that introducing a new flavor is not inherently bad for a company like Coca-Cola, but not telling the consumers beforehand that they would remove the old flavor was akin to expecting failure to occur (2011, p.1089).
Balmer, J. M. (2009). Corporate marketing: apocalypse, advent and epiphany. Management Decision, 47(4), 544-572.
Torres, A., & Tribó, J. A. (2011). Customer satisfaction and brand equity. Journal of Business Research, 64(10), 1089-1096