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‘Timeless Taste’: Cherry Coke Turns

February 19, 2015

Cherry Coke is now available in 36 countries. cherryA turn-of-the century soda fountain favorite made its debut in bottles and cans 30 years ago this month. Cherry Coke premiered in February 1985 in select U.S. cities before rolling out nationwide that summer. The brand put a contemporary spin on a homespun beverage many Americans enjoyed as a kid at their local drugstore, where “soda jerks” would add a splash of cherry syrup to fountain Coca-Cola. “I grew up in Atlanta in the ‘70s and would walk to Spring Lake Pharmacy on the corner of Collier and Howell Mill just about every day after school,” recalls Coca-Cola Archivist Ted Ryan. “It was an old-fashioned pharmacy with a soda fountain counter, and I’d always get a Cherry Coke. So when it launched in 1985, I was ecstatic. Drinking a Cherry Coke brings back very specific memories of sitting at that counter with my brother.” Despite its nostalgic appeal, Cherry Coke launched with contemporary packaging and advertising to target adventurous consumers of all ages. Its introductory campaign carried the upbeat tagline: “Cherry Coke is slightly wild. It’s fun.” The launch followed years of research and development. Coca-Cola began to explore the product’s potential after cherry emerged as the clear favorite during consumer testing of various cola flavorings at the 1982 Knoxville World’s Fair. The company also had received thousands of consumer requests for cherry-flavored Coke. ”Cherry Coca-Cola is the first major entry into a whole new category: cherry-flavored sodas,” Brian Dyson, president of Coca-Cola USA, said at a February 1985 press conference in New York. The brand, which represented the first flavored extension of the company’s flagship trademark, was an immediate hit with consumers. “It took something that’s already incredibly special –Coca-Cola – and makes it that much more special,” Ryan said. About a year later, Coca-Cola introduced diet Cherry Coke. A year later, new packaging graphics introduced white and burgundy stripes, with two cherries as part of logo. In 1991, Coca-Cola announced the rollout of new “fountain-style” Cherry Coke and Diet Cherry Coke with significantly more cherry taste — closer to what people remembered from the soda fountain — driving even greater sales. The brand evolved in the following years. In 1997, graffiti-style graphics and quirky advertising re-positioned Cherry Coke as a hip, cutting-edge product and urged consumers to “Do Something Different.” That same year, a touring Cherry Coke “Sampbulance” — an ambulance complete with a siren, flashing lights and Cherry Coke’s new visuals — was a hit with teens at concerts, festivals and sporting events. Cherry Coke campaigns in the late-90s tapped into teen passions, including video games, technology and music, and the brand has maintained a loyal following. Cherry Coke is now available in 36 countries.

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