Forget about ‘Don’t Mess with Texas’… Coke Cans Also Verboten


Confused and dissatisfied customers prompt Coca-Cola to deep-six its white Polar Bear cans aimed at heightening awareness of climate risks. Through February, Polar Bears still rule … but on traditional red Coke cans.

The venerable beverage wasn’t changing, mind you, and this was not a reprise of the aborted mid-80s fiasco when the company had to revert to its “classic” drink after an effort to update to “New Coke” went awry. But like that earlier marketing and branding lesson-learned-hard, this one brought with it some zesty headlines and lead paragraphs.

“A Frosty Reception for Coca-Cola’s White Christmas Cans,” The Wall Street Journal headlined its December 1 story reporting the company’s decision to shelve its white and polar bear-bedecked effort at holiday season green marketing. It was part of a planned months-long year-end collaboration with the World Wildlife Fund aimed at showing its creds on issues such as climate change.

Journal Atlanta reporter Mike Esterl’s lead paragraph: “The end is near for a white can that has many Coke drinkers seeing red.” Red, as in the “time-honored” color of the “flagship cola” can.

Seems we poor beverage-consuming customers just couldn’t hack the redesign. Some reported that they had confused the new cans for the silver cans of Diet Coke. Others apparently were convinced that the popular beverage just tasted different, and not as good, when decked-out in white rather than red cans, “even though the product itself was not changed at all,” the company said in changing to polar bears on red background cans.


Polar Bears won’t be celebrating the holidays on white Coke cans, but will continue to thrive on Coke “Arctic Home” convenience napkins.

In any event, it appears to all be part of a well-intentioned corporate effort to lend a hand to increasing concerns about climate change and impacts on shrinking Arctic polar bear habitats … even if it did have to be trashed just one month into the switch. It’s one part of a campaign including the company’s Arctic Home website.

The Journal article on the story and an audio interview with reporter Mike Esterl provide background on the red/white/red can flip-flop. “Many of the regular Coke drinkers got confused,” Esterl said, adding that the red polar bear cans are expected to be available through February. (And convenience napkins, as pictured above, still abound.)

One moral of it all? Don’t mess with Texas … or with “classic” Coca-Cola or the cans it comes in.

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