For a while, we were oversaturated with article about how companies can market products to Millennials, who don't care about brands and don't have money anyway, until those articles were replaced by the same questions about Generation Z. That's really nothing new. Big companies are always looking for a way to tap into the zeitgeist of their biggest target demographic. In the 1990s, that was Gen X, and Coca-Cola thought they were onto something.
No one quite knew what to do with Generation X (born from the late 1960s to the early ’80s), but marketers were especially stumped at how they could appeal to this new, generation of globalisation that was disillusioned with the status quo. The heart of the matter was, and remains, incredibly subversive – a challenge to dive head-first into a risky marketing ploy that raises eyebrows even today: could such a blatant anti-advertising message be profitably used by advertisers? In 1993, Coca-Cola tried with a new, intentionally drab soft drink called OK Soda. “It underpromises,” Coke’s projects manager said, “It doesn’t say, ‘This is the next great thing.’ It’s the flip side of over-claiming.” It was supposed to be the marketing world’s greatest reverse psychology triumph, a mastery of consumerism over postmodern disillusion. But things didn’t quite work out at planned, and retracing the lifespan of OK Soda is reveals not only an embarrassing snapshot from Coke’s past, but a window into what consumers really (don’t) want to hear.