New Coke Was a Debacle. It’s Coming Back. Blame Netflix.

An exhibit for the hit show "Stranger Things" at an invite-only Netflix promotional event in Beverly Hills, Calif., June 12, 2017. As streaming services battle with traditional cable and broadcast networks, Hollywood is witnessing Emmy campaigning on a scale that industry executives say they have never seen before. (Carlos Gonzalez/The New York Times)



John Koblin

c.2019 New York Times News Service


New Coke, the soft drink that drew a nationwide backlash in 1985, is back. And the credit, or blame, for the return of Coca-Cola’s greatest folly goes to Netflix.

A limited supply of the vintage beverage will be available starting Thursday as part of a robust promotional campaign related to the coming season of “Stranger Things,” the supernatural thriller set in the 1980s. New Coke will also appear in several episodes of the show. Representatives of both companies said no money changed hands in that product-placement deal.

The return of the failed drink comes as Netflix ramps up its corporate partnerships and merchandising deals in an effort to recruit even more people to the streaming service, which has 149 million paid subscribers worldwide. Netflix said it had reached agreements with roughly 75 brands to spread the word about one of its biggest hits.

Because of the new push, which rivals the campaigns for summertime blockbusters, “Stranger Things” may be hard to avoid in the coming weeks. H&M and other retailers will sell clothes that replicate what the show’s characters wear. Baskin-Robbins will serve new flavors referencing the program’s Scoops Ahoy ice cream parlor.

Matt and Ross Duffer, the creators of the show, said the New Coke tie-in came about naturally, given that the third season, available July 4, takes place in summer 1985. That was when the Coca-Cola Co. fended off the unexpected negative reaction to the sweeter, smoother version of its flagship beverage, a reaction that included boycotts, letter-writing campaigns and thousands of phone calls to its Atlanta headquarters.

“It was one of the first ideas in our Season 3 brainstorm,” the Duffer Brothers, as they are listed in the credits, said in a joint email interview. “It was the summer of ’85, and when you talk about pop culture moments, New Coke was a really big deal. It would have been more bizarre to not include it.”

Although Coca-Cola executives have acknowledged that New Coke was a debacle, they said yes. The company had to dig up the recipe from its archives and said it would make 500,000 cans of New Coke available on its website and in some vending machines.