Is iOS7 a PR Stunt? Classic Coke Drinkers Want to Know.

Everyone loves a good conspiracy theory, and with the revelation that the NSA’s PRISM system was used “to gain access to the private communications of users of nine popular Internet services” — anything seems possible.

With this in mind, I couldn’t help but think that the “user” unhappiness with the beta release of iOS7, Apple’s new operating system, was engineered. Even planned. Much like the launch of New Coke.

First let me regale you with the history of New Coke and then I’ll draw obvious comparisons and conclusions, and maybe you’ll start to believe my twisted theory.

In case you were just a twinkle in your fathers eye back in the mid 80's the New Coke story goes something like this…

“New Coke was the reformulation of Coca-Cola introduced in 1985 by the Coca-Cola Company to replace the original formula of its flagshipsoft drink, Coca-Cola (also called Coke). New Coke originally had no separate name of its own, but was simply known as “the new taste of Coca-Cola” until 1992 when it was renamed Coca-Cola II.
The American public’s reaction to the change was negative and the new cola was a major marketing failure. The subsequent reintroduction of Coke’s original formula, re-branded as “Coca-Cola Classic”, resulted in a significant gain in sales. This led to speculation that the introduction of the New Coke formula was just a marketing ploy; however the company has always claimed it was merely an attempt to replace the original product.”
~ Wikipedia Excerpt

In case you didn’t read between the lines:

  1. After initial rollout and acceptance of New Coke, there was a huge backlash from customers, specifically from a very vocal Southern minority who viewed the beverage as a distinct part of the region’s identity. (Coca-Cola’s headquarters is based in Altlanta, Georgia.)
  2. These unhappy drinkers viewed the company’s decision to change the formula as another surrender to the “Yankees”. They and others like them showed their unhappiness by bombing Coca-Cola’s headquarters with 400,000-plus calls and letters. Remember the internet did not yet exist in the form that we know it today.
  3. Other drinkers joined the growing cacophony of voices in expressing their displeasure. Newspaper columnists wrote about the New Coke formula, chastising both the taste and the Coca-Cola executives who made the decision to change said formula. Talk-show hosts used it as fodder for opening monologues. Even Fidel Castro denounced the New Coke. There were boycotts and public protests, with cases of the New Coke being poured out in the streets.
  4. A grassroots movement was organized by aspiring PR noobie, Gay Mullins, in an effort to get the old formula back into the public’s hands.
  5. Regional bottlers, who had once applauded the move as a bold tactic to stave off the encroaching upstart Pepsi, filed a lawsuit against Coca-Cola corporate.

All of this fuss over carbonated sugar water.

(caption: New Coke was introduced to compete against the sweeter competitor, Pepsi.)

In the end, the board of Coca-Cola changed their minds and brought back the old formula branding it “Coke Classic” and sold it right along side the “New Coke” — which even some Coca-Cola loyalists loved and continued to drink. By years end, Coke Classic outsold both New Coke and Pepsi and six months after reintroduction sales increased “more than twice the rate of Pepsi’s.”

Years later, Sergio Zyman (Coke’s Marketing Vice-President) talking about the New Coke expereince was quoted saying, “Yes, it infuriated the public, cost a ton of money and lasted only 77 days before we reintroduced Coca-Cola Classic. Still, New Coke was a success because it revitalized the brand and reattached the public to Coke.”

In essence, Coca-Cola had it’s cake and ate it too.

Some people, even those in the Marketing and PR, believed the results of this fiasco were too good to be coincidence and many entertained that the conspiracy theories could have merit — whether or not Coke-Cola did it on purpose. Former CEO Donald R. Keogh refuted these theories stating, “We’re not that dumb, and we’re not that smart.”

The company currently refutes these theories on it’s own web site, publishing their version of the New Coke saga.

Now if you reread the previous paragraphs, swapping out the words Android for Pepsi, iOS7 for New Coke, newspapers for bloggers/new media, Apple for Coca-Cola — perhaps you’ll start thinking like I do.

What if the release of iOS7 Beta was done purposely to fuel the flames of discontent? What if it was done to increase news coveragegenerate hateful tweets, inspire I hate iOS7 facebook pagesJonyIveRedesignsThings tumblrs and generally keep us focused on the flaws until the actual, final, ready for public-consumption release of the new iOS in the Fall of 2013?

Like they say, “there no such thing as bad publicity.”

What if when that happened, Jony Ive, in that alooo-min-eee-um laced voice tells us we’ve been punk’d and gives us the real iOS update? The update with all the currently announced functionality improvements but, sporting a gloriously intuitive, retooled and revamped visual design.(Regardless of whether they ape Windows 8 or Android Ice Cream Sandwich)

The competition will weep, critics and haters will eat their words, loyalists will rejoice and the stock price will climb into the stratosphere and all will be right in the world of Apple.

Logic tells me this will never happen — but it never hurts to dream.

… … …

Full Disclosure: The author owns an iPhone 3 and 4 as well as an HTC EVO - but has since migrated to the iPhone 5 and the HTC One X+. Currently he’s grooving on Google Now, though he does so on the competitors OS.