Coke Zero Tastes Like Coke?  Give Me a Break!

Posted on July 2, 2020 by Dennis Niven

One would note that most of my blog entries are heartfelt white papers on deep business issues from my 47 years’ experience as a Big Four CPA, management accountant, CFO of a NYSE-traded group of manufacturing companies and, for the past 19 years, a part-time CFO.  Reading other blogs, I realize that blogs can also address more universal concerns.  So, here is one that has me shaking my head in amazement every time I drink a Coke Zero.

I recently saw a Coke commercial there the food and drink conglomerate tries to establish the perception that Coke Zero tastes exactly like real Coke.  Give me a break!

I was raised on Coca-Cola in Iowa in the 1950s and 1960s.  My teeth rotted away like plutonium rods in a Japanese power house.  I had all of my teeth drilled out by a “new, high-speed drill” marketed by a new dentist in town when I was 11-13 years old.  I couldn’t stand brushing my teeth (a chalk on the chalkboard thing), and God was forced to work a miracle, by freezing an electric toothbrush (not in a box but fairly new and complete with charger) deep under water in a rut in the alley where I played, just so I could start brushing.  I dug that brush out of the ice and used it for years and years.  I just last week replaced my Sonicare that burned out after one year, but I digress!  I knew and loved Coke and considered myself a Coca-Cola connoisseur (also of root beer – Frostie was the best but only available when on my dad’s truck route when we stopped in Lake Park, IA).  A&W was good, but only when Amanda Gruis brought it in frozen mugs to the car at the A&W stand in Sioux City, IA – that’s a whole different blog (under a pen name, ‘cuz she was “hot”).

I put up with the New Coke / Classic Coke thing.  McDonald’s still used the New Coke formula for some time, I’m convinced, or at least they use stainless steel containers instead of plastic bags, and I liked it better than Classic Coke.  No big deal… filter the water and air better, lower the syrup content, make more money… but that was fine.

What was interesting was Coke’s attempt at diet cola – Tab.  Well, Tab was an acquired taste but once acquired it was great.  The lower PH of Tab would sometimes upset my stomach, but I had discovered pizza by then so it was of no material consequence.  I liked Tab as a new flavor of soft drink.  It tasted nothing like Coke, and everybody knew it.  I still run across Tab from time to time and pay an outrageous price to pick up a few bottles.  Unless, that is, the store has Sidral Mundet (red apple only, please, learned in my days acquiring a business in Guadalajara) soda; if you see a six pack of Tab sitting in with the Sidral at the store – that was me changing my mind.

Diet Coke finally got it right as it is Coke with different sweetener (and more salt).  Why did it take so long?!  I don’t drink Diet Coke, but it is what it says it is.

Now for the rant!  In an attempt to change perception, and therefore reality, the marketing people (the lowest form of human slime?) in Atlanta have had the audacity to claim that Coke Zero tastes ANYTHING like Coca-Cola.  Restated more clearly, “Hey, Mr. Seckler, Coke Zero does not taste ANYTHING like regular Coke.”  It is merely a slightly reformulated Tab with a more effective Ace-K sweetener.  When the Borat-style ads showed up with two idiots using cardboard cutouts to demonstrate… I forget what…, we should have turned the TV off, picked up a Coca-Cola (bottled only, please) and started reading a book!

Coke should market Coke Zero by saying something like, “Try it, you might like it”, “Old farts that don’t like Diet Coke should drink Coke Zero” or even “Drink a stronger, bolder cola” as the black cans try to imply.  Flying pigs are popular so that will be used soon, I suspect.  If your target market is old men, and the NFL is going to be a no-show, don’t forget that boobs sell!  Where is Amanda Gruis when you need her?!

But Coke Zero tastes like Coke?  Give me a break!

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